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Bacterial Pneumonia


What is bacterial pneumonia?

Bacterial pneumonia is a lung infection caused by bacteria. Your lungs become inflamed and cannot work well. Bacterial pneumonia germs are easily spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or has close contact with others.

What increases my risk for bacterial pneumonia?

  • Elderly or young age
  • Care in a hospital, long-term care facility, or other healthcare settings
  • Care for children in a daycare center
  • Use of a ventilator to help you breathe
  • Heavy alcohol use for many years, or smoking cigarettes
  • Heart, lung, liver, brain, or kidney disease, cancer, or diabetes
  • A weakened immune system, such as from HIV, asplenia (removed spleen), or poor nutrition
  • Recent use of antibiotics, steroids, chemotherapy, or antirejection medicines
  • Exposure to certain animals, such as birds, rabbits, farm animals, and bats

What are the signs and symptoms of bacterial pneumonia?

  • Dry cough or coughing up mucus, which may be streaked with blood
  • Fever, chills, or severe shaking
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or chest pain
  • Feeling tired easily
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headache, muscle pain, or abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Trouble thinking clearly

How is bacterial pneumonia diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask you questions about your signs and symptoms and examine you. Tell him if you have been around any sick people or animals or have traveled recently. You may also need any of the following tests:

  • A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood.
  • Blood and urine tests are used to check for infection.
  • X-ray pictures of your lungs may help show signs of infection, and how well your lungs are working. The pictures may also show other problems, such as fluid around your lungs. You may need more than one chest x-ray.
  • A sputum sample may be tested for the germ that is causing your illness. It can help your healthcare provider choose the best medicine to treat the infection.

How is bacterial pneumonia treated?

Treatment depends on what caused your bacterial pneumonia and how bad your symptoms are. You may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to help fight a bacterial infection, decrease swelling or fever, or relive pain. You may also need medicines to help open your airway to help you breathe. Medicines may also be given to help you cough mucus out of your lungs.
  • Deep breathing and coughing is done to open the air passages in your lungs. Coughing helps to bring up mucus from your lungs. Sit up regularly or get out of bed to help you breathe more easily and get better faster.
  • Breathing treatments may help open your airway so you can breathe easier. A machine is used to change liquid medicine into a mist. You will breathe the mist into your lungs through tubing and a mouthpiece. Inhaled mist medicines act quickly to relieve your symptoms.
  • You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • Thoracentesis is a procedure used to remove extra fluid from your chest. You are given numbing medicine, and then a needle is put between 2 of your ribs. The extra fluid is pulled out through the needle and sent to the lab for tests. You may find it easier to breathe when the fluid is removed.

What can I do to prevent or manage bacterial pneumonia?

  • Prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use gel hand cleanser when soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you have washed your hands first. Cover your mouth when you cough. Cough into a tissue or your shirtsleeve so you do not spread germs from your hands. If you are sick, stay away from others as much as possible.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Liquids help thin your mucus, which may make it easier for you to cough it up. While you are sick, do not drink alcohol.
  • Ask about vaccines. You may need a vaccine to help prevent pneumonia. Get an influenza (flu) vaccine every year as soon as it becomes available.
  • Do not smoke, and do not allow others to smoke around you. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have more trouble breathing, or your breathing seems faster than normal.
  • Your lips or fingernails turn blue.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your symptoms do not get better, or they get worse.
  • You are confused and cannot think clearly.
  • You are urinating less or not at all.
  • You start to cough up blood.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever and chills.
  • Your cough comes back or does not go away.
  • You feel very tired or weak or are sleeping more than usual.
  • You cannot eat or have loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Your heart or pulse beats more than 100 times in 1 minute.
  • You have questions about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.