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Does pneumonia really walk?

Posted February 19, 2014 in Advice Column, Winterset

Pneumonia is a disease of the lung tissue that involves inflammation of the alveoli (air sacs in the lungs where O2 and CO2 are exchanged). Although bacteria and viruses cause the majority of pneumonias, there can be other causes such as fungi, parasites, chemicals and physical injury to the lung tissue. Pneumonias can result in fluid accumulation in alveoli (congestion, with poor gas exchange) and produce the typical signs and symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, and often fever and chest pain, especially when coughing.

• Infectious pneumonia (bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic are all subsets of infectious pneumonia) means that an infectious agent is causing the pneumonia.

• Chemical pneumonia (many types caused by various substances such as chlorine or gasoline fumes) means that the pneumonia results from an irritant, not an infectious or traumatic cause.

• Traumatic pneumonia (trauma such as a blunt object striking the chest as in an auto accident or an assault) is a noninfectious or nonchemical cause of lung tissue inflammation.

• Walking pneumonia (First question answer: Pneumonia doesn’t walk, but patients with “walking pneumonia” do.) is an imprecise term used to describe a person with symptoms of pneumonia that are “mild” enough to allow people to do daily activities and do not require patient hospitalization; it does not describe the cause of the pneumonia-like symptoms and is often used as a preliminary diagnosis without good evidence (a chest X-ray or other tests) that pneumonia is actually present. The symptoms of walking pneumonia are mild — usually a cough that can be frequent with little or no phlegm, a low or absent fever (usually under 101 F), and feeling more tired after normal activities. Some patients may get muscle aches or back aches, an occasional rash, or headaches. The symptoms are present for a few days usually before patients seek medical care because “the symptoms are not too bad but they just seem not to go away.” In addition, many patients have additional problems such as sinus infections, sore throat, or asthma.

• Double pneumonia means at least two lung lobes (one on the right lung and one in the left) have pneumonia. The term implies a more severe pneumonia, but it is imprecise as it doesn’t indicate the cause or how severe the pneumonia is.

• Aspiration pneumonia is pneumonia caused by inhaling foods, saliva, vomit or gastric contents that can act as both a chemical and infectious cause of pneumonia.

Information from, provided by Winterset Care Center North, 411 E. Lane St., 462-1571 and Winterset Care Center South, 715 S. Second Ave. 462-4040.

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