Pneumonia: signs, symptoms and complications


Pneumonia, an infection in the lungs, can affect anyone, but children under the age of 2 and adults over 65 are at higher risk of developing pneumonia and more severe cases. Symptoms in children include fever, rapid breathing, lack of energy, and vomiting. And cough.

In adults, symptoms can mimic those of a cold, progressing to fever, chest pain, muscle aches, shortness of breath, chills, and a productive cough, although some people may experience only fever and malaise at first.

Illustration from Get Meds Info

Frequent symptoms

Pneumonia can be difficult to detect in young children because the most common symptoms are often different from those in adults. Pneumonia is also harder to detect in adults over 65 because they tend to have fewer symptoms than younger people .


Newborns and babies may not show any signs of infection, but if they do, symptoms may include :

  • Threw up
  • Fever and cough
  • Anxiety
  • Low energy
  • Eating problems due to shortness of breath.
  • Looks sick

Symptoms of pneumonia in children can be more subtle and varied than in adults.


After symptoms of a mild upper respiratory infection appear, such as a runny nose and a mild cough, children who develop pneumonia may suddenly get worse and develop other symptoms and signs, including:

  • Fever: Sometimes the only sign that a child may have pneumonia is a fever .
  • Widening and retraction of the nose (tightness of the neck muscles): These symptoms may be a sign of shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing: Wheezing is common, especially with viral pneumonia.
  • Cyanosis: It is indicated by the bluish tint of the baby's lips, nose and fingers, which means that there is a lack of oxygen in the blood.
  • Vomiting – often due to shortness of breath.
  • Cough: The cough can be dry or produce phlegm that can be clear, white, yellow-green, or even tinged with blood.
  • Rapid breathing ( tachypnea ) – Rapid breathing can be a major sign of pneumonia in children. Respiratory rate is often called a "neglected vital sign" because it is so often overlooked.

Regardless of other symptoms, you should seek immediate help if your breathing rate exceeds 50 breaths per minute (beats per minute) in babies 2 to 12 months, 40 beats per minute in children 1 to 5 years, or 30 beats per minute in children older than 5 years.


Because adults over 65 tend to have fewer or fewer symptoms than younger adults, they are more likely to be in danger when seeking medical attention . There are usually no symptoms of a cold, such as a runny nose or sneezing, unless the pneumonia is a complication of an upper respiratory infection. A quick reaction to any of the following symptoms can reduce the chances of hospitalization and death.

Common symptoms in adults include:

  • Fever: Although you may have a fever with pneumonia, you may not have it. If you have a fever above 101 degrees, see your doctor as soon as possible, as this may indicate that you have developed a bacterial infection that could lead to bronchitis or pneumonia.
  • Chest pain: Chest pain may be worse with deep breathing or coughing. It can be a sensation of pain or pressure under the breastbone.
  • Frequent, productive cough: This is the opposite of a dry, cutting cough, which means when you cough up phlegm, or phlegm , which is a mixture of saliva, mucus, and sometimes pus. Phlegm may be clear, but instead it may be green, yellow, or bloody. Any of these could mean you have pneumonia, although the presence of blood means you most likely have a serious infection.
  • Fatigue and muscle pain – You may feel a general feeling of tiredness and discomfort and / or pain in your muscles or joints.
  • Shortness of breath – You may feel short of breath, even if you are not really trying. However, this can only happen with increased activity.
  • Sweating and chills – You may feel so cold that no matter how warm the room is or how many blankets you have, you won't be able to stay warm. You may also feel sweating and chattering of teeth.
  • Headaches: This symptom sometimes occurs and is more likely if you have a fever.
  • Change in mental awareness or confusion: This is much more common in adults over 65.
  • Lower than usual body temperature: This symptom usually occurs in adults over 65 and in people with weakened immune systems.
  • Gray or bluish skin color: This usually occurs around the mouth and means that the blood is not getting enough oxygen.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

How does pneumonia happen?

Walking pneumonia

Walking pneumonia is a term used to describe mild pneumonia that does not require hospitalization. In fact, you can usually go about your normal activities if you have one. Walking pneumonia usually affects people under the age of 40, but it can infect anyone at any age.

Although walking pneumonia has mild symptoms, recovery can take a month or more.

Recovery time from walking pneumonia can be longer for the very young, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.


The most common symptom is a dry, cutting cough, which can later develop into a productive cough. In adults, other symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Throat pain
  • Wheezing
  • Mild fever, possibly with chills


The first symptoms of walking pneumonia in children can mimic a cold or the flu and usually begin gradually with decreased activity, fever , sore throat, and headache. Later, children have a dry cough, which can be worse at night.

With walking pneumonia, the cough does not go away in a week, as with a cold. It will continue to grow even after other symptoms have disappeared and it will become more productive , often with blood-stained phlegm.

Other signs and symptoms can include:


Most people recover well from pneumonia, but some develop complications, especially in high-risk groups, such as young children, the elderly, hospitalized people, and people with weakened immune systems. Possible complications include:

  • Bacteremia : This complication occurs when bacteria from the lungs enter the bloodstream. This can cause the infection to spread to other organs and lead to septic shock, which can lead to death.
  • Pleural effusion : Sometimes people with pneumonia develop a pleural effusion or empyema . The pleura is the membrane that surrounds the lungs and softens them with each breath. If pneumonia occurs near the outer areas of the lung, the area may become inflamed and fill with fluid or pus. In this case, you may need to drain fluid or pus. It sounds intimidating, but it is a fairly simple procedure in which a fine needle is inserted into the pleural space to remove fluid. If there is a large empyema, a drainage tube may need to be inserted until the infection clears.
  • Lung abscess: This is usually treated with antibiotics, but will sometimes need surgery or drainage with a long needle or tube to remove the pus .
  • Respiratory failure: You may have enough breathing problems that you need to be hospitalized and put on a respirator for a while. For children, in this case, sedatives are usually used so that the child does not panic.
  • Kidney problems

The annual death rate from pneumonia in the United States exceeds 56,000, most often as a result of seasonal flu . Most deaths occur in the elderly and young children with underdeveloped immune systems.

When to contact a healthcare provider

Call your doctor if you have a fever over 100.4 F, shortness of breath, chest pain, or chills. Seek emergency care if your child has rapid breathing, trouble breathing, an enlarged nose, cyanosis, or signs of dehydration.

Get the word of drug information

If you are at high risk (over 65, hospitalized, or have a weakened immune system) or have a chronic medical condition such as asthma, heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it is very important to see your doctor as soon as you suspect you have an infection.

This does not mean that someone else with pneumonia symptoms should survive. Even in people with intact immune systems, pneumonia can be fatal if left untreated. In fact, when combined with influenza, it is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States.

Frequently asked questions

  • It depends on the reason. " Walking pneumonia " is a general term for mild pneumonia, which can have many causes. It is also used to refer to pneumonia caused by the atypical bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae . Mycoplasma pneumonia is usually mild and does not progress to "normal" pneumonia, but mild pneumonia for other reasons can get worse depending on the cause. " Walking pneumonia " is a general term for mild pneumonia, which can have many causes. It is also used to refer to pneumonia caused by the atypical bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae . Mycoplasma pneumonia is usually mild and does not progress to "normal" pneumonia, but mild pneumonia from other causes can get worse.

  • Pneumonia affects the respiratory system , making it difficult to get enough oxygen. This lack of oxygen weakens the cells of your body, and this is felt especially in the muscles and in the general feeling of fatigue. After treatment, your symptoms will lessen, but many people continue to feel tired and sore for a month. Dehydration can also contribute to muscle pain, so be sure to drink enough fluids.

  • No. Although you may have a mild fever and mild pain or chills after the vaccine, these effects are not as long-lasting or debilitating as pneumonia. The most common problem after pneumonia vaccination is pain at the injection site.

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