Ten percent of people who come down with Pneumonia will die from the disease. It’s the leading cause of death in elderly people but can affect anyone. Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton hit headlines after she collapsed during her presidential campaign. Seemingly in good health (apart from a cough) she was shocked to discover she was suffering with pneumonia and took a four-day rest from her busy schedule to recuperate.
Although pneumonia is a well-known condition, it can be misdiagnosed as a number of ailments including the common cold. It is usually caused by an infection of Streptococcus pneumonidae, but may also be the result of a viral or fungal infection in rarer cases. According to the NHS, 8 in 1,000 adults in the UK get pneumonia every year. Symptoms can come on suddenly or over a period of several days.
Here are the warning signs to look out for:
- coughing (either dry or mucous-filled)
- rapid and/or shallow breathing
- rapid heartbeat
- sweating and/or shivering
- loss of appetite
- chest pain made worse by breathing or coughing
- nausea and vomiting
- joint pain
As pneumonia shares many symptoms with other conditions such as bronchitis and asthma, it can be hard to diagnose. If in doubt, see your GP, who will perform tests on your lungs for a diagnosis.
Mild pneumonia is treatable through bed rest, plenty of fluids, and in some cases a course of antibiotics.
Pneumonia can affect anyone, but those most at risk include infants and toddlers, the elderly. smokers, people with other conditions such as asthma or cystic fibrosis, and those with weakened immune systems.
While pneumonia usually isn’t contagious, you can avoid it by maintaining good personal hygiene. Ensure that you cough or sneeze into a tissue and dispose of it immediately to prevent the spread of germs. Giving up smoking can also reduce your risk of developing pneumonia, as smoking damages lung tissue.