The symptoms of pneumonia can vary from person to person. The symptoms can be mild to severe, depending on certain factors, such as the type of germ that caused the infection, your age and the overall state of your health.
Oftentimes, these symptoms can mimic those of a cold or a flu, but will last longer. They can develop slowly, over several days, or manifest suddenly, between 24 and 48 hours after being exposed to the disease-causing organism.1 Some of the most common signs of pneumonia include:2
Fever, shaking, chills and sweating
Cough that may or may not have greenish or yellowish mucus
Shortness of breath (usually when you do strenuous activity, such as climb stairs)
Nausea and vomiting
A stabbing chest pain when you cough or breathe in deeply
Bacterial Versus Viral Pneumonia: Hallmark Symptoms to Take Note Of
There are also specific differences in the symptoms you experience depending on whether you have bacterial or viral pneumonia.
If your illness comes from bacteria, your temperature may rise up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and may come with profuse sweating, rapid breathing and increased pulse rate. Your nailbeds and lips may appear blue due to lack of oxygen in the blood, and you may feel delirious or confused.
Viral pneumonia symptoms may mimic that of influenza: fever, dry cough, muscle pain, headache and weakness. After 12 to 36 hours, increased breathlessness may occur, and the cough may worsen, and may come with mucus. Your lips may also turn blue.3
Pneumonia Symptoms in Children and the Elderly
This illness may be particularly dangerous for infants or very young children, as they do not show signs of the infection sometimes.4 Other symptoms of pneumonia in children or infants include vomiting, fever and cough, restlessness and fatigue. Babies may also appear lethargic, cry more than usual, feel irritable and feed poorly.5,6
However, if you notice your child’s or baby’s nostrils flaring while breathing or that their muscles below and between the ribs and above the collarbone are working hard to help them breathe, then they may need immediate medical attention.7 These are symptoms of severe pneumonia that may be lethal if not treated immediately.
For seniors, it’s common for pneumonia to be accompanied by delirium,8 confusion or sudden changes in mental awareness. They may have a lower than normal temperature as well.9
Pneumonia in the elderly should not be taken lightly — in fact, it is one of the most common causes of mortality among seniors, as it tends to compound other illnesses, such as lung disease,10 heart problems and diabetes.11
Just like in young children, pneumonia can also be extremely life threatening for the elderly and people with chronic heart or lung problems, so if any of these symptoms manifest, consult a physician immediately.