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What Is Bilateral Pneumonia?

By Stephany Seipel
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Bilateral pneumonia, or double pneumonia, is a bacterial, viral or fungal infection that affects both lungs. Affected patients have fluid in the lungs and have difficulty breathing. Pneumonia is a serious condition that can lead to death if it remains untreated.

People of all ages can become infected with the pathogens that cause pneumonia. Older people, particularly those who have difficulty swallowing, are at higher risk than people in other age groups. People who use recreational drugs or who abuse alcohol might also contract bilateral pneumonia.

Individuals whose immune systems are compromised are often at higher risk of developing pneumonia than healthy individuals. People whose bodies are weakened from a recent bout with the flu or other lung infection might become ill. Individuals who suffer from seizures, strokes or heart conditions also are at risk.

The disease spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs around other people. The pathogens enter the lungs and colonize the air sacs. The body sends white blood cells to attack the invaders. The lungs soon fill with liquids and pus, which is a thick fluid that forms when white blood cells accumulate in a part of the body.

An infected person often runs a high fevers. He or she might have a sore throats, chills and a productive cough that brings up discolored sputum. Some affected people have difficulty breathing or do not have the energy to complete their regular daily activities.

As the infection progresses, patients who have bilateral pneumonia sometimes develop a purplish or bluish tinge to their skin from a lack of oxygen. They might also suffer from chest pains. Some people hear a wheezing or rattling sound as they breathe in and out.

A medical practitioner diagnoses bilateral pneumonia by conducting a physical examination. He or she listens to the lungs with a stethoscope. The doctor might also look at the lungs by performing X-rays.

A doctor might perform blood tests to get a white blood cell count. Patients who have viral or fungal pneumonia have more of a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes, and people who have bacterial infections have more neutrophils. The doctor might also use sputum samples to determine whether the infection is caused by a bacteria, fungus or virus.

Doctors prescribe oral antibiotics for most cases of fungal and bacterial bilateral pneumonia. People can prevent pneumonia by getting a yearly flu vaccine, because pneumonia often follows the flu. They also can avoid pneumonia and other illnesses by eating a healthy diet, practicing good hygiene and getting enough sleep.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1002898 — On Mar 12, 2020

I had this pneumonia 4 years in a row, like 5 years ago. It wasn't great and I almost died from it. I got curious about this so I then researched it and never knew it caused scarring (I was 8 when I first got it.) But the scarring makes sense because now I can barely breathe after walking long distances.

I'm glad my mom pushed with the doctors then because they would've taken their time with other patients while I was near death in the waiting room.

All I remember was it was hard to breathe, move, and think. But when I did try to breathe, I constantly coughed which made it worse (the phlegm went up to my throat and blocked me from breathing.) I'm glad I haven't gotten it in a few years and pray for others who have it now.

By anon997110 — On Nov 16, 2016

I'mm in my 50's and was just diagnosed today with bilateral pneumonia. It started with a hot feeling in my bronchial tubes, some eye and nasal drainage. Then within a week went to only being able to get out of bed to use the restroom. I have dizziness, shortness of breath, ridiculous coughing, complete loss of appetite, five-day long high fever then vomiting. Hopefully today after starting my antibiotics, I get my life back. I had a root canal last month and was on antibiotics for a week. I probably picked it up at the dentist, and having my immune system dragged down with antibiotics didn't help.

By anon994757 — On Mar 04, 2016

My close friend is currently in intensive care due to this. Both of her lungs are bleeding, and it's not looking too good for her right now.

By stnick007 — On Dec 30, 2015

Why have these conditions of getting pneumonia become accepted or even getting a cold or the flu accepted as "normal"?

It is universally acknowledged that all illnesses, viral, bacterial, and fungal, come from a weakened immune system. So let's focus on strengthening our immune system to the point that we never get sick again!

By anon990299 — On Apr 14, 2015

Is severe headache, loss of appetite or dizziness associated with bilateral pneumonia?

By healthy4life — On Jan 09, 2013

I've heard that viral pneumonia can lead to death. This is the kind you get after having the flu.

I think a lot of the danger is from the person mistaking the signs of pneumonia for a continuation of the flu. There may be no big change in symptoms other than the fact that they are getting worse.

It's easy to get bilateral pneumonia after having the flu. That's why it's so important to take good care of yourself while you are sick, and go to the doctor right away if you get worse instead of better after a week of sickness. Don't just assume that you are having a longer case of the flu than usual.

By feasting — On Jan 08, 2013

@kylee07drg – They are similar. I used to think that if the phlegm you coughed up contained blood, it must be pneumonia, but then I found out that this can happen with bronchitis, too.

One way to tell if you have pneumonia is by the high fever. If it's 101 degrees or over, then you probably have it instead of bronchitis.

Also, you'll probably alternate between chills and sweating because you are so hot. If you have a fever this high, you'll probably want to go to the doctor, anyway.

By kylee07drg — On Jan 07, 2013

The symptoms of pneumonia sound just like those of bronchitis! Is there a way to tell the difference?

When I get bronchitis, I don't see a doctor, because it is usually viral and there's no treatment. I would hate to have pneumonia without knowing it and put off getting help until it was too late!

By DylanB — On Jan 07, 2013

I recall some years being particularly dangerous for catching the flu. One year, almost everyone I knew got it, even those people who had gotten their flu vaccine!

My dad got it, but he wasn't worried about it turning into pneumonia. He said he had gotten a pneumonia vaccine three years before, and it was supposed to last for five years.

I didn't know until he told me this that a pneumonia vaccine even existed. It's a really good idea, particularly for older people and people with weakened immune systems.

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