Can You Catch Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be caused by fungi, viruses or bacteria. Viral pneumonia is the most common type, followed by bacterial pneumonia. It is actually a common illness but fortunately is not usually severe. Can you catch pneumonia? Well, pneumonia can be spread from person to person through breathing, coughing, or sneezing without covering your mouth. Even people without clinical manifestations of the disease can pass on the illness to other people.

Can You Catch Pneumonia?

The simple answer is yes to most kinds of pneumonia, with the exception of chemical-induced one. But technically, what you caught actually are the microorganisms that contribute to getting this disease. The contagion of pneumonia is complex and depends on a person’s immune system and the status of their lungs when the microorganisms take hold. You can get the microorganisms but doesn’t necessarily have to come down with pneumonia; sometimes other minor illnesses may occur.

Pneumonia involves a lung inflammation that is usually caused by a microorganism but can also be attributed to chemicals. Whether or not pneumonia is contagious depends on what the specific cause is.

Viral Pneumonia

Viral pneumonia can be contagious. Healthy people can easily catch the virus through contact with an infected person, but doesn’t necessarily have to come down with pneumonia as a result of the infection.

Bacterial Pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia is usually a secondary infection caused by having inflammation elsewhere in the body. People who get bacterial pneumonia usually have weaker immune systems, but even healthy people with no predisposing factors can get this type of pneumonia. In some cases, the bacterium caught does not travel to the lungs, butmanifesting asless serious symptoms like strep throat or sinus infections instead.

Mycoplasma Pneumonia

Mycoplasma is a microorganism that has the traits of both bacteria and viruses. Although mycoplasma pneumonia usually causes mildersymptoms, it is nevertheless, contagious. People with this kind of pneumonia should avoid exposure tothe at-risk group which includes the elderly, those with a weak immune system, and infants.

Chemical Pneumonia

Chemical pneumonia is not contagious but can be very serious. It is caused by inhaling a chemical irritant that sets up an inflammatory response in the person.

In a word, exposure to someone who has pneumonia does not necessarily mean you will catch pneumonia as well. More likely, you will develop a sickness that is far less serious. People with risk factors are more likely to contract pneumonia, and suffer more serious symptoms.

Who Is at a Higher Risk of Catching Pneumonia?

After answering the question “can you catch pneumonia?”, let’s look at who are more likely to develop pneumonia than others. Generally, the elderly (those over 65 years of age) and young children below the age of 2 are the most at-risk group for contracting this disease.

Other risk factors for catching pneumonia include:

  • Those with a weak immune system. People suffering from HIV, are on immunosuppressant drugs because of organ transplant, are on steroid drugs, or are taking chemotherapy are at a greater risk of pneumonia.
  • Chronic illnesses. People who have lung conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can catch pneumonia more easily. Those with heart diseases have a special risk for pneumonia as well.
  • Being in a hospital.Patients on a ventilator or in the ICU have a greater than average risk of developing pneumonia.
  • Smokers. Smokers have damaged lungs with ineffective cilia to brush pathogens out of the lungs. This puts them at a greater risk of catching pneumonia.

What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

Can you catch pneumonia? Yes, it is possible and the symptoms you have can include:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Dark or green sputum from inside the lungs
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing rate
  • Shaking chills
  • Pleuritic chest pain, which is sharp pain whenbreathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Delirium or confusion
  • Sweating
  •  Muscle pain
  • Cyanosis, which is a bluish discoloration of the skin from a lack of oxygenation

How is Pneumonia Diagnosed and Treated?

The diagnosis of pneumonia often starts with the doctor getting a complete history of your symptoms and by a very careful physical examination. Abnormal sounds can be heard when auscultating the lungs and a plain chest x-ray will show infiltrates in the lungs consistent with pneumonia.

Most people with pneumonia will need antibiotics combined with rest and plenty of fluids to help loosen the phlegm that can then be coughed out of the lungs. Improvement after receiving treatment often takes about 2-3 days.

More serious cases will need hospitalization, IV fluids and IV antibiotics. Oxygen will help these people feel better and will help clear out the infection. Very sick people will need the use of a ventilator, which is a respiratory machine that does the work of breathing for you because you cannot breathe well on your own.

How Can I Prevent Catching Pneumonia?

Because the answer to the question, “can you catch pneumonia?” is yes, you need to do what you can to prevent the infection from taking hold in your lungs.

There are vaccinesyou can get that will help reduce the risk of catching pneumonia.

  • An annual flu shot can keep you from catching the flu. When you have the flu, your immune system will be weak and you will be at a greater risk of getting bacterial pneumonia.
  • The PCV vaccination or “pneumococcal conjugate vaccine” can be given to kids under the age of 5 years to prevent childhood pneumonia.
  • The PPSV vaccination is also referred to as the “pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine”. It is given to adults who are older than 65 years of age or to people with chronic illnesses that puts them at risk for catching pneumonia. This vaccine lasts about 5 years before you need to be re-vaccinated.

Things that healthy people can do to stave off pneumonia include the following:

  • Take vitamin C, which is protective against infections
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Remain active so that your lungs will be healthy
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Stop smoking and do not use alcohol in excess
  • Cover your mouth and nose whenever you have to cough or sneeze
  • Practice frequent handwashing techniques and use alcohol-based hand wash
  • Stay away from people who are sick with pneumonia, especially if you are at risk yourself
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