Pneumonia is an infection of the air sacs in your lungs. When you have pneumonia, these air sacs can be filled with fluid or pus. Pneumonia can occur in one of both of your lungs, and it can range in severity from mild to very serious. There are three main types of pneumonia, including walking pneumonia, bacterial pneumonia, and viral pneumonia.
Common symptoms of pneumonia
Pneumonia can be a complication of a viral infection (like Covid-19, flu, or other influenza-like illnesses). It can also be caused by bacteria, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae or Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Fungi can cause pneumonia as well, although this is less common.
Common symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chest pain, either while breathing or coughing
- A productive (wet) cough
When to go to urgent care for pneumonia
You should visit an urgent care clinic for symptoms of pneumonia if you have more than one symptom or if your fever is greater than 103 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s always better to visit a doctor rather than wait it out if you’re experiencing symptoms of pneumonia because pneumonia can cause complications for even young and healthy adults.
What your urgent care doctor can do for pneumonia
When you visit an urgent care doctor with symptoms of pneumonia, your doctor will review your symptoms and conduct a physical exam. Your physical exam will include an examination of your ears, nose, and throat, and your doctor will listen to your lungs. Your doctor may also measure your blood oxygen level to see how well oxygen is getting to your bloodstream.
If you have symptoms consistent with pneumonia, your urgent care doctor will order a chest x-ray and blood work. All Birmingham MedHelp urgent care clinics have onsite digital x-rays that can be read while you’re in the clinic. If your doctor determines that you have pneumonia, your doctor will prescribe treatment that may include antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or injectable steroids. Your doctor will also give instructions for what to do if your symptoms worsen, and they may schedule a follow-up appointment.
What you can do for pneumonia
If you suspect that you may have pneumonia, don’t wait to get treatment. You should not attempt to treat pneumonia on your own. Your doctor will give specific home care instructions for treating your pneumonia based on the severity and type of pneumonia you have.
As with any other respiratory infection, it’s important to drink plenty of clear fluids and get as much rest as you can. Your doctor may also recommend over-the-counter fever reducers (such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol). Cool mist humidifiers can help break up the mucus in your chest and make it easier to sleep. You may also find tea soothing. It can take several weeks for your body to fully heal from pneumonia, so don’t rush into your normal exercise routine.
If you’ve been diagnosed with pneumonia, continue to monitor your symptoms. You should go directly to the emergency room if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing, especially when you're at rest
- Coughing up blood
- Bluish lips, face, or fingers
- Confusion or disorientation, especially in adults over the age of 65
If you have risk factors for complications from pneumonia, talk with your primary care doctor about getting the pneumococcal vaccine.