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Chest Infection (Pneumonia)

Written by Dr Claudia Pastides, 13th March 2019


Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, often causing a fever, chills and a bad cough with green or yellow sputum. It is more common in older people or those with low immune systems but it can affect people of any age. Treatment generally involves antibiotics and plenty of rest.


Causes

The cause is often bacterial and occasionally viral (13% of cases).1

Risk factors

  • Infants and children
  • Older age
  • Weakened immune system
  • Smoking
  • Medical conditions causing heart or lung problems
  • Being in hospital
  • Being on a ventilator

Typical Symptoms

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain with breathing or coughing
  • Cough with mucus
  • Confusion, especially in older adults
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Feeling tired
  • Fever
  • Chills and sweats
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

Common Treatment

Treatment usually involves prescribing antibiotics and using over the counter fever-reducing medication. Most people can be managed by a GP and don’t require admission to hospital, however this depends on your symptoms and if you have a diagnosis of other health conditions.


When to speak to a doctor

If you think you might have pneumonia it is advisable to speak to your GP. Your concern can often be initially discussed via a digital consultation and it is likely the GP will recommend a face to face appointment so that your chest can be listened to. The GP will explain what steps to take next to arrange this.

It is important to call 999 and receive emergency care if you/the person you are caring for experiences:

  • Severe difficulty breathing
  • Severe chest pain
  • Loss of consciousness

Prevention

Pneumonia can be managed and prevented by:

  • Vaccinations against the flu and infections that cause pneumonia
  • Washing hands regularly
  • Stopping smoking


More information

NHS - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pneumonia/


References

1. NICE Chest infections - adults [online] Date modified: November 2016 Date accessed: 13/9/2019 https://cks.nice.org.uk/chest-infections-adult#!backgroundSub:1