Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Could Your Cold Actually Be Pneumonia? ; Feeling a Bit under the Weather? It's the Time of Year When Our Homes and Workplaces Are Filled with Coughs and Sneezes, but Is Your Latest Sniffle Something More Serious?

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Could Your Cold Actually Be Pneumonia? ; Feeling a Bit under the Weather? It's the Time of Year When Our Homes and Workplaces Are Filled with Coughs and Sneezes, but Is Your Latest Sniffle Something More Serious?

Article excerpt

WINTER brings with it the usual barrage of coughs, colds and flu. But what if your nasty cough and high temperature develops into something else entirely? "There is still confusion between pneumonia and a 'really bad cold'," says Dr Ben Marshall, a consultant in respiratory medicine at University Hospital Southampton. "Symptoms are similar - cough, fever and shortness of breath. However, pneumonia is much worse. It requires antibiotics and can lead to hospitalisation."

The condition affects 1 in 100 people and kills 50,000 UK adults every year: WHAT IS PNEUMONIA? "IT'S an inflammation of one or both lungs usually caused by an infection," explains Vicky Barber, respiratory nurse specialist for the British Lung Foundation.

"The body sends white blood cells to the lungs to try and fight the infection. But this can make it harder for the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs) to work, causing oxygen levels to fall and fluid to build up making it more difficult to breathe."

AND WHAT CAUSES IT? "THERE are many bacteria, viruses and, more rarely, fungi that can cause pneumonia," says Vicky. The most common cause in adults is a bacterium called streptococcus pneumoniae causing pneumococcal pneumonia. Viruses are a common cause of pneumonia in young children - most commonly the respiratory syncytial virus and sometimes type A or B influenza. In rare instances pneumonia can be caused by aspiration - breathing in vomit, a foreign object, such as chemicals.

Fungal pneumonia is very rare in the UK and usually affects people whose immune systems are weakened. And people in hospital can develop hospital-acquired pneumonia, caused by germs.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS? "SYMPTOMS don't always get worse over time," says Vicky. "Sometimes they occur quickly - within an hour.

In these instances, the person has a high temperature and feels unwell - but they may not even have a cough.

"Most people, however, experience symptoms that are similar to flu or a chest infection - but get steadily worse. Almost all of those with pneumonia will have a high temperature and pain across the shoulder blades or the base of the lungs. They usually feel 'terrible' and have a cough that brings up phlegm.

"Shortness of breath or breathing quickly also suggests pneumonia, while confusion is also a serious sign. It's important those experiencing these symptoms see their GP as a matter of urgency or go to A&e."

WHO IS MOST AT RISK? ANYONE of any age can get pneumonia, says Vicky. But it's more of a threat for people with a weaker immune system. These include the old and very young, those with chronic health conditions, such as lung or heart disease, people with cancer, especially those having chemotherapy, and people who smoke or drink alcohol to excess.

PREVENTING THE ONSET Don't smoke: smokers have an increased risk of developing it - and so do children whose parents smoke. …

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