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What are the Symptoms of Pneumonia in Adults?

By Elizabeth Tumbarello
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The symptoms of pneumonia in adults are ambiguous and depend on the exact microorganism — bacterum, virus, fungi or mycoplasma — that is causing the disease. Symptoms of pneumonia in adults can mimic those of the influenza virus or even the common cold. Some of the most common symptoms of pneumonia in adults include fever, chills, coughing, chest pain, headaches, muscle pain and feeling abnormally tired or over-exerted. Pneumonia can be a life-threatening illness, so anyone who suspects that he or she has contracted pneumonia should speak to a licensed medical care provider immediately.

In elderly adults, the symptoms of pneumonia might, paradoxically, be less severe. This does not indicate that the disease itself is any less severe. Immune-compromised adults might also experience milder signs of pneumonia. The symptoms of pneumonia in children tend to be more intense than those in adults.

Types of pneumonia are separated by the cause. Streptococcus pneumoniae is the clinical term for bacterial pneumonia infections. Mycoplasma pneumoniae are pneumonia infections caused by mycoplasmas — organisms that have characteristics of both viruses and bacteria. Chlamydia pneumoniae is a viral pneumonia infection. Although fungal and chemical causes exist, they are comparatively rare.

Bacterial pneumonia presents itself rapidly, with symptoms appearing seemingly out of nowhere. Symptoms are similar to that of viral pneumonia, but instead of an inability to breathe, breath comes rapidly. A productive cough with green, yellow or blood-tinted sputum is one symptom of adult pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia is considered more risky than viral pneumonia but can be treated with antibiotics.

Viral pneumonia presents itself in two stages. The initial onset of viral pneumonia produces signs similar to the flu, including a sore throat and loss of appetite. Approximately 24 hours later, adults who have viral pneumonia experience an increased fever, cough that produces sputum and a pronounced shortness of breath. Severe viral symptoms of pneumonia in adults include an inability to hold one's breath and a faint blue discoloration to the lips or beneath the fingernails and toenails.

Mycoplasma pneumonia presents similarly to the other two varieties. The most pronounced difference with mycoplasma pneumonia symptoms is that the cough does not produce mucus. Mycoplasma pneumonia is no less miserable in terms of symptoms than the other two varieties.

Adult pneumonia can be diagnosed and treated only by a medical professional. Symptoms of adult pneumonia alone are not enough to reach a positive diagnosis. A doctor will examine the symptoms and listen to the patient's lungs for any abnormal sounds. A blood test or mucus test might be administered to help reach a diagnosis. In some cases, a chest X-ray might be ordered.

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Discussion Comments
By turquoise — On Dec 31, 2014

@ZipLine-- If you are above 65, you can get the pneumonia vaccine. You should ask your doctor about it.

My pneumonia symptoms started off mild too but got serious pretty fast after that. I had never felt so ill ever before. The coughing was the worst.

By serenesurface — On Dec 31, 2014

@ZipLine-- It is of course a good thing to seek treatment when you are ill. Many people could prevent pneumonia by getting treatment for their infections right away. Pneumonia sometimes develops because another respiratory infection goes untreated. So in that sense, I think you are doing the right thing.

And technically it's not possible to know if you have the pneumonia bacteria or virus without medical testing. Like the article said, there are so many other causes of coughing, fever, difficulty breathing and fatigue. Although as far as I know, these symptoms are much worse when it's pneumonia and the difficulty breathing is more forefront because of the inflammation of the lungs and airways.

By ZipLine — On Dec 30, 2014

I know that respiratory infections and pneumonia are big risks for the elderly. Many deaths occur because of these infections triggering other problems. My grandmother died of pneumonia. That's why whenever I get a flu or the cold, I freak out and rush to my doctor. He thinks I'm exaggerating a little bit but I really am very afraid of pneumonia. I want to make sure that I'm taken care of and I think that's the right thing to do. Regardless of whether pneumonia symptoms are milder in adults or not, it doesn't make the illness any less dangerous.

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