What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is inflammation of one or both lungs caused by an infection. The lungs may fill with fluid or pus causing a cough with phlegm, fever, chills, and breathing difficulties. It is usually caused by a bacteria, virus, or fungi. If one experiences difficulty breathing, chest pain, persistent cough (esp if with purulent phlegm), or fever of 102F or higher, medical attention should be sought.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Fever, chills, sweating
  • Cough with phlegm
  • Chest pain when breathing or coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue/exhaustion
  • GI symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Symptoms vary from mild to severe

How is pneumonia treated?

Providers may order several tests to help determine appropriate treatment of the pneumonia:

  • Chest x-ray: helps to diagnose pneumonia as well as determine the location and extent of the infection
  • Blood/sputum tests: helps identify the particular germ that’s causing symptoms to aid in medication selection
  • Pulse oximetry: measures the oxygen in one’s blood to determine if the body is getting an adequate supply

Providers will then be able to prescribe appropriate medications such as antibiotics if bacterial, plus symptomatic medications such as fever reducers and cough medicine. In addition, plenty of rest and plenty of fluids are recommended.

Pneumonia usually does not require hospitalization unless a person is considered at high risk. This includes the very old, very young, those with chronic disease or depressed/weakened immune system, or those who have developed a complication.

What are the causes of pneumonia?

In the college student population, pneumonia is most often considered “community acquired pneumonia.” Most commonly it is caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. It can occur independently or develop from a cold or flu. “Walking pneumonia” is usually milder and caused by a different bacteria. Viral pneumonia is most often seen in young children and is usually mild. Pneumonia caused by a fungus is more rare, and usually seen in those with chronic health problems who have inhaled fungi found in soil or bird droppings.

Other types of pneumonia include hospital-acquired pneumonia, health care-acquired pneumonia, and aspiration pneumonia. Certain populations are most often at risk for these types.

Ways to reduce the risk for developing pneumonia

  • Get the flu vaccine: pneumonia can be a complication of the flu
  • Practice good hygiene: wash hands regularly, especially before eating
  • Don’t smoke: this damages your lungs natural defenses against infections
  • Keep your immune system strong by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly!

Visit the college health center with any questions or concerns!

Mayo Clinic Pneumonia