What is Pneumonia

Pneumonia, a serious infection or inflammation of your lungs, is one of the dangerous complications of the flu. The lung’s air sacs fill with pus or other liquids and oxygen can’t reach your blood. Your body requires adequate amounts of oxygen in the blood to work properly. Despite the use of antibiotics, various types of pneumonia and influenza combined to rank as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2003.

Symptoms of Viral and Bacterial Pneumonia

Viral pneumonia symptoms may seem flu-like: fever, a dry cough, headache, muscle pain and weakness. However, within 12 to 36 hours, the cough becomes worse and produces mucus. Breathlessness increases and the fever escalates. 

Viral pneumonia may be complicated by the invasion of bacteria, with accompanying symptoms of bacterial pneumonia.

Bacterial pneumonia symptoms are severe chest pain, shaking chills, chattering teeth, and a cough that produces rusty or greenish mucus. Fever may rise as high as 105 degrees F while the patient sweats profusely. Breathing and pulse rate increase rapidly. Lack of oxygen may cause a blue cast on lips and under fingernails.

Who needs the Pneumonia Vaccine

Your doctor is the best judge of whether you should have the pneumonia vaccine. It is usually given only once and may have mild side effects. 

It is recommended only for those most at risk: people over 65, those with chronic illnesses such as lung or heart disease, kidney disorders, diabetes or sickle cell anemia; or who have weakened immune systems. Some doctors feel that people as young as age 50, and those who have had pneumonia before, are candidates for the vaccine.

The vaccine is made from an extract that is not infectious, so the shot cannot cause pneumonia. Your doctor can administer the pneumonia and flue shots at the same time.

Medicare Part B covers preventive services including flu, pneumonia and Hepatitis B vaccinations.

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