Most people who develop pneumonia initially have symptoms of a cold (upper respiratory infection, for example, sneezing, sore throat, cough), which are then followed by a high fever (sometimes as high as 104 F), shaking chills, and a cough with sputum production. The sputum is usually discolored and sometimes bloody. Depending on the location of the infection, certain symptoms are more likely to develop. When the infection settles in the air passages, cough and sputum tend to predominate the symptoms. In some, the spongy tissue of the lungs that contain the air sacs is more involved. In this case, oxygenation of the blood can be impaired, along with stiffening of the lung, which results in shortness of breath. At times, the individual's skin color may change and become dusky or purplish (a condition known as "cyanosis") due to their blood being poorly oxygenated.
The only pain fibers in the lung are on the surface of the lung, in the area known as the pleura. Chest pain may develop if the outer aspects of the lung close to the pleura are involved in the infection. This pain is usually sharp and worsens when taking a deep breath and is known as pleuritic pain or pleurisy. In other cases of pneumonia, depending on the causative organism, there can be a slow onset of symptoms. A worsening cough, headaches, and muscle aches may be the only symptoms.
Children and babies who develop pneumonia often do not have any specific signs of a chest infection but develop a fever, appear quite ill, and can become lethargic. Elderly people may also have few symptoms with pneumonia.
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Archived: March 20, 2014
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