Australia is in the midst of the flu season, so it’s important to understand which signs and symptoms could indicate there’s something more serious taking place. Pneumonia can affect anyone and in Australia, there are more than 775,000 hospitalisations as a result of the condition every year.

The home doctor experts at House Call Doctor have all the information you need.

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a common lung infection that can be fatal. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. During normal respiration, the air travels through the lungs to the alveoli or air sacs, however when you have pneumonia, the air sacs are obstructed and breathing is hindered.

Who is most at risk?

Anyone can contract pneumonia at any stage in their life, but those who are at a higher risk are:

  • Those over 70 years of age
  • Those with medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer or chronic disease affecting the lungs, heart, kidney or liver
  • Tobacco smokers
  • Indigenous Australians
  • Infants aged 12 months and under.

What are the symptoms?

Pneumonia symptoms vary depending on age, the cause and the severity. Some symptoms to look out for are:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain.

If you, or someone you are caring for, gets worse after a cold or flu, pneumonia may be the cause. House Call Doctor recommends seeing your doctor immediately as it can be potentially life threatening.

Types of pneumonia

  1. Bacterial pneumonia: one of the most severe and potentially life-threatening forms of pneumonia is pneumococcal pneumonia which is caused by bacteria.
  • Viral pneumonia: this type of pneumonia is caused by viruses including influenza.
  • Mycoplasma: this pneumonia is caused by the bacterium Mycoplasma pneumonia and can cause additional symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

There are other less common types of pneumonias that may be caused by infections, including fungi.

How do they diagnose pneumonia and how is it treated?

A doctor can diagnose pneumonia based on symptoms and by examining your chest. Blood tests and chest x-rays are also used. Treatments options depend on the patient’s age and type of infection, but can include:

  • Hospital admission
  • Plenty of fluids
  • Antibiotics
  • Medications to relieve pain and reduce fever
  • Rest.

How can you prevent pneumonia?

You can prevent pneumococcal pneumonia by:

  • Practising good hand and home hygiene
  • Making your life a smoke-free zone
  • Getting the influenza vaccine to reduce your risk of infection.