Bacterial pneumonia takes place in either one lung or both lungs. The bacteria make the lungs inflamed and filled with pus, fluid, and cellular debris. The infected lungs’ ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide is limited. In bacterial pneumonia, the patient may experience breathlessness, a hindered ability to breathe, and chest pains.
Severity of bacterial pneumonia can vary. In some cases, the condition can lead to complications, or even death. Antibiotics are the best course of treatment for bacterial pneumonia, and getting the right diagnosis sooner rather than later can reduce your risk of complications.
Here we will outline the causes, symptoms, and treatment for bacterial pneumonia.
Causes and symptoms of bacterial pneumonia
Pneumonia causes vary depending on where the infection as acquired. Pneumonia contracted in a hospital is known as hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP). If contracted outside a hospital, it is known as community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). In either case, the pneumonia is caused by bacteria.
Common bacteria that cause bacterial pneumonia include Streptococcus pneumonia (most common form, lives in the throat and mouth), Haemophilus influenzae (lives in the upper respiratory tract), Klebsiella pneumonia (lives in the mouth, on the skin, or digestive tract), and Staphylococcus aureus (commonly affects drug users, patients with chronic illness, and young children, lives on the skin or in the pharynx or intestine).
Signs and symptoms of bacterial pneumonia include:
- Cough with colored mucus
- Chest pain that worsens with cough
- Sudden onset of chills
- High fever (over 102 F/38.8 C)
- Muscle pain
- Rapid breathing
- Lethargy or severe fatigue
- Moist, pale skin
- Confusion – more common among seniors
- Loss of appetite
If you start experiencing these symptoms, seek out medical attention right away to begin treatment early on and reduce your risk of complications.
What increases your risk of bacterial pneumonia?
Anyone of any age can develop bacterial pneumonia, but there are certain factors that can increase a person’s risk. Risk factors for bacterial pneumonia include:
- Being an infant or child
- Being a senior
- Living with impaired or weakened immune system
- Using immunosuppressant drugs for a long time
- Having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Using inhaled steroids for a long time
Is bacterial pneumonia contagious?
Bacterial pneumonia may be contagious, depending on the type of bacteria that have caused the infection. For many patients, bacterial pneumonia is caused by the bacteria from their nose or mouth entering their lungs.
Generally, bacterial pneumonia is not contagious, except for cases when it is caused by mycoplasma pneumonae and tuberculosis. These types of bacterial pneumonia are highly contagious and can be easily spread through droplets released when a person is coughing or sneezing.
Related: Which other types of pneumonia are contagious?
Treatment and diagnosis of bacterial pneumonia
Bacterial pneumonia is diagnosed by your doctor listening to your chest for sounds that indicate heavy mucus secretion. Your doctor can also diagnose bacterial pneumonia by analyzing your blood sample, taking blood cultures to determine the type of bacteria causing infection, analyzing a mucus sample, and ordering a chest X-ray to confirm the presence of an infection.
The most common form of treatment for bacterial pneumonia is antibiotics. Other treatments may include a cough suppressant, especially if your cough is keeping you awake at night, and fever medications to reduce fever.
Taking the time to rest is also important along with staying well hydrated to help your body help fight off the infection. Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol as those habits can slow down the healing process.
When to call the doctor for bacterial pneumonia?
You should call or see your doctor if you notice that the mucus you cough or sneeze up is yellow, green, or brown. You should also see your doctor if you have shortness of breath, chest pain, and confusion.
To reduce your risk of complications related to bacterial pneumonia, you should immediately see a doctor if you begin to experience symptoms and you also have chronic conditions like diabetes, have a weak immune system, have a condition that impairs your immune function like HIV, if your lungs are damaged due to a chronic condition like asthma, if you are very young or very old, and if you’ve have your spleen removed.
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