Is Bacterial Pneumonia?
Bacterial pneumonia is an infection in one or both lungs. It
may involve just one small section of your lung, or it may encompass your
entire lung. The bacteria cause the lung’s air sacs to become inflamed and filled
with pus, fluid, and cellular debris. This often impairs the body’s ability to
exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. If you have bacterial pneumonia, you might
experience breathlessness or pain as you try to take in oxygen.
Bacterial pneumonia can be mild or serious. It may even lead
to respiratory failure or death. The severity of your pneumonia depends on the strength
of the bacteria and how quickly you are diagnosed and treated. Your age, health,
and immune status are also factors.
Make sure to treat your infection early. Antibiotics can
significantly lower your chances of developing more serious complications such as
Causes Bacterial Pneumonia?
There are two kinds of bacterial pneumonia. Doctors classify
bacterial pneumonia based on whether you got it outside or inside a hospital. Most
people in hospitals are already sick and aren’t as able to fight off a severe
infection. Also, the bacteria found in a hospital are usually more dangerous.
Community-Acquired Pneumonia (CAP)
Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) occurs when you get an
infection after exposure to bacterial agents outside of a healthcare setting.
This is the most common type of bacterial pneumonia. You can get CAP by
breathing in respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes or by skin-to-skin
A number of bacteria commonly cause CAP:
is the leading cause of bacterial pneumonia. It lives in the noses and throats
of healthy people. It can enter your lungs through inhalation. It can also
enter the bloodstream through a wound or infection within the body.
is a bacterium that may live in your upper respiratory tract. It doesn’t usually
cause harm or illness unless you have a weakened immune system. It’s the second
most common cause of bacterial pneumonia.
resides in the mouth, skin, and digestive tract. It’s a bacterium that’s more
prone to infect those with weakened immunity.
is a bacterium that more frequently infects drug abusers, patients with chronic
illness, or young children. It usually lives on the skin or within the pharynx
Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia (HAP)
You get hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) within two to
three days of exposure to germs in a medical setting, such as a hospital or
doctor’s office. This is also called a “nosocomial infection.” This type of
pneumonia is often more resistant to antibiotics and more difficult to treat
than CAP. Examples of the bacteria that cause HAP include methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Is at Risk for Developing Bacterial Pneumonia?
People at higher risk for developing bacterial pneumonia
- infants and children
- adults over age 65
- people who are ill or have impaired immunity
- long-term users of immunosuppressant drugs
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
patients who use inhaled corticosteroids for long periods of time
Are the Symptoms of Bacterial Pneumonia?
The most common symptoms of bacterial pneumonia are:
- a cough with thick yellow, green, or
- chest pain that worsens when coughing or
- sudden onset of chills
- fever of 102°F or above (fever lower than 102°F in older persons)
- muscle pain
- breathlessness or rapid breathing
- lethargy or severe fatigue
- moist, pale skin
- confusion, especially among older persons
- loss of appetite
Is Bacterial Pneumonia Diagnosed?
To diagnose bacterial pneumonia, your doctor will:
- listen for abnormal chest sounds that indicate a
heavy secretion of mucus
- take a blood sample to determine if your white
blood cell count is high, which usually indicates infection
- take a blood culture, which can help determine
if the bacteria has spread to your bloodstream and also help identify the
bacterium causing the infection
- take a sample of mucus, or a sputum culture, to
identify the bacterium causing the infection
- order chest X-rays to confirm the presence and
extent of the infection
Is Bacterial Pneumonia Treated?
Your doctor may prescribe the following medications:
- an antibiotic that fights the specific bacterium
causing your infection
- a cough medicine to calm the cough and to help
you cough up mucus
- fever medication to reduce your temperature
Can I Prevent Bacterial Pneumonia?
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a pneumonia vaccine for
adults age 65 and older. The vaccine is also available for adults at higher
risk for pneumonia due to impaired health or immune status.
also recommends the PCV13 pneumonia vaccine for infants and young children.
Infants usually receive this vaccine in several doses during their first year. Children
may also receive it at other times depending on their vaccine schedule and
The flu can weaken your immune system. This gives bacteria the
perfect opportunity to invade the lungs. An annual flu shot can protect adults
against influenza and certain forms of bacterial pneumonia.
You can also reduce your chance of becoming ill by exercising,
eating well, avoiding smoking, and getting enough rest. Washing your hands with
soap and using sanitizer can help to kill the germs that cause bacterial