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Jennifer Nelson

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About Author — Jennifer is a freelance writer in the Midwest who writes about a variety of topics but especially enjoys educating people about their health and the health of their pets.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog.

If you’re coughing up a lot of mucus and have a fever, you may have pneumonia. What causes pneumonia? Is bacterial pneumonia contagious? Here’s what you need to know about bacterial pneumonia.

What is bacterial pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a serious lung infection where the lungs become inflamed and may fill with pus or other fluid. Pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi. Bacterial pneumonia is caused by bacteria, typically Streptococcus pneumococcus.

Bacterial pneumonia symptoms

Bacterial pneumonia symptoms may include:

  • Cough with thick yellow, green, or blood-tinged mucus
  • Sharp chest pain that feels worse when coughing or breathing
  • Fever of 102°-105° or higher
  • Sudden chills that make you shake
  • Feeling like you can’t catch your breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Muscle pain
  • Reduced appetite
  • Headache
  • Lethargy, intense fatigue
  • Pale, moist skin
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion, especially in older people

If symptoms are severe or you experience any of the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical care because pneumonia can be life-threatening:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing up bloody mucus
  • Fever of 102.5° or higher
  • Confusion
  • Fast heart rate
  • Bluish tint to skin, especially lips and fingernails

Is bacterial pneumonia contagious?

Depending on which bacteria is causing it, bacterial pneumonia can be contagious. The bacteria are spread by coughs, sneezes, and handling contaminated objects.

Bacterial pneumonia risk factors

While anybody can develop bacterial pneumonia, some factors put people at a higher risk of suffering from pneumonia. Some risk factors for bacterial pneumonia include:

  • Living or working in a hospital or nursing facility
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Air pollution
  • Having other conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease
  • A recent viral respiratory infection like the flu
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Recovering from surgery
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Weakened immune system
  • Age – older than 65 or younger than 2 years old

Bacterial pneumonia complications

Bacterial pneumonia does carry the risk of serious complications, including death. Complications of bacterial pneumonia can include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Organ failure as a result of bacterial infection
  • Lung abscess, a cavity in the lung
  • Pleural effusion, the buildup of fluid in the lungs

Bacterial pneumonia treatment

While severe cases of bacterial pneumonia will need to be treated in a hospital setting, it can often be treated at home. Bacterial pneumonia treatment may include:

  • Rest
  • Fever reducers and pain relievers
  • Drinking lots of fluids
  • Humidifier
  • Cough medicine
  • Stay home until the fever goes down and you’re no longer coughing anything up
  • Avoid smoking
  • Antibiotics
  • IV fluids and medications
  • Oxygen treatment
  • Treatment to loosen mucus

Antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia

Antibiotics are typically required to treat bacterial pneumonia. Always take every dose of an antibiotic that is prescribed to you, even if you feel better. Failing to do so may lead antibiotic-resistant bacteria or the pneumonia coming back.

Think you may be experiencing symptoms of bacterial pneumonia? Book an appointment with a PlushCare physician and get a prescription today!


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