Complications and Risk Factor of Pneumonia

Most people with pneumonia improve after 3 to 5 days of antibiotic treatment, but a mild cough and fatigue can last up to a month. Patients who required hospitalization, the treatment in a hospital may take longer to get improvement.

Updated: October 14, 2017

Most people with pneumonia improve after 3 to 5 days of antibiotic treatment, but a mild cough and fatigue can last up to a month. Patients who required hospitalization, the treatment in a hospital may take longer to get improvement. Pneumonia can be fatal in the elderly or those with chronic medical conditions or a weakened immune system.

Complications of Pneumonia:

Pneumonia may cause complications, especially in people with weakened immune systems or chronic diseases such as diabetes, congestive heart failure and emphysema. Complications can include:

Lung abscesses:

These are cavities in the lungs that contain pus.

Impaired breathing:

A condition in which you may have trouble getting enough oxygen when you breathe. You may need to use a ventilator.

Bacteremia:

In this condition bacteria from the pneumonia infection may spread to your bloodstream. This can lead to dangerously low blood pressure, septic shock, and in some cases, organ failure.

Acute respiratory distress syndrome:

This is a severe form of respiratory failure where a medical emergency will be required.

Pleural effusion:

The pleura are thin membranes that line the outside of your lungs and the inside of your rib cage. If your pneumonia is not treated, you may develop fluid around your lungs in your pleura which may become infected and need to be drained.
Death: In some critical cases, pneumonia can be fatal.

Risk factors for Pneumonia:

There are a number of factors that increase the risk of developing pneumonia. These include:

  • a weakened immune system which can be either due to disease such as HIV/AIDS or cancer, or to medications that suppress immune function such as steroids or certain cancer drugs.
  • infants and children 2 years of age or younger
  • adults ages 65 years or older
  • swallowing or coughing problems, as may occur following stroke or other brain injury
  • people with a chronic disease such as cystic fibrosis, COPD, sickle cell anemia, asthma, heart disease, or diabetes
  • people who smoke, misuse certain types of illicit drugs, or drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • malnutrition
  • patient in an intensive-care unit of a hospital, particularly if on ventilator support

Is pneumonia contagious?

Most types of bacterial pneumonia are not highly contagious. But it is possible to spread bacteria from one person to another. Breathing in infected droplets that come from patients who are coughing or sneezing can spread the disease to others.
Usually pneumonia occurs in people with risk factors or weakened immune defenses when bacteria that are normally present in the nose or throat invade the lung tissue. Any kind of bacterial or viral pneumonia has the potential to be contagious. Mycoplasma pneumoniae and tuberculosis are two types of bacterial pneumonia that are highly contagious.
Fungal pneumonia from the environment can be infectious, but it does not spread from person to person.

Contagious Period for Pneumonia:

Since pneumonia varies according to the type of germ or organism that has caused it, it is unpredictable to say exactly how long an adult or child with pneumonia will be contagious.
This contagious period can range from one to two days to weeks. Usually when an infected person will be coughing or sneezing, contaminated droplets are released into the air.

If antibiotics are taken, after 24 to 48 hours many bacterial pneumonia becomes much less contagious. However, this time period may vary for some organisms. For example, with tuberculosis, the person will be no longer contagious after taking two weeks or more of antibiotics. With viral pneumonia, the patient becomes less contagious after the symptoms have improved, especially fever.


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