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What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection in one or both lungs. It happens when a tiny substance - a bacteria, virus or fungus - is inhaled into the lungs and begins to multiply. Normally the immune system is able to remove foreign invaders, but people who have weakened immune systems (such as the very young, the very old, those with chronic illnesses, or even healthy people who have just been sick with an illness such as the flu) are at risk for a pneumonia infection. As the infection grows and irritates the lungs, the tiny air sacs within the lungs become inflamed and fill with fluid, which makes it difficult for oxygen to get to the blood. Because of this, pneumonia can be dangerous.

Patients who have pneumonia will have a deep, wet cough. They might have trouble breathing, and their breathing might be fast and shallow. They might have chest pain, chills, and a fever. A doctor can recognize pneumonia based on these symptoms. A doctor will also listen to a patient’s chest using a stethoscope to see how well air is moving in and out of the lungs. Treatment is usually a course of antibiotics to cure the infection, along with supportive therapies such as pain medication, fluids, and rest.