How to recognize pneumonia by the first symptoms

How to recognize pneumonia

Most inflammation in the lungs is called pneumonia. Its reasons are quite diverse. And, despite the fact that pneumonia is most often a complication of other past diseases, it itself causes no less severe consequences, especially if its symptoms are mild and remain without proper attention.


  1. Pneumonia or pneumonia can vary in form and severity. And its development is promoted by bacterial, viral or fungal infection, poisoning by inhaled chemicals, toxic substances, as well as various injuries and prolonged bed rest.
  2. Damage to lung tissue during pneumonia can be complete or partial. The severity of the disease and its outcome depend on this, since increased blood flow to the inflamed area causes the pulmonary vesicles to be filled with inflammatory effusion and the air to be displaced from them. This in turn leads to compaction of the lung tissue and disruption of gas exchange. The inflammatory process in the lungs is reversible if timely measures and appropriate treatment are taken. But for this you need to be able to recognize the signs of pneumonia .
  3. The main signs of pneumonia include elevated temperature up to 39-40°C, severe chills, and coughing. However, these symptoms are characteristic of many colds, so pain on the side of the chest, when inhaling and exhaling, coughing and sneezing should be most alarming. At first they appear periodically, and then have a constant aching character. Because of this, breathing becomes frequent and shallow, shortness of breath appears. Due to high temperatures, the skin becomes dry and flaky.
  4. An equally significant sign of pneumonia is a blush on the cheeks, more pronounced on the side of the lung affected by the inflammatory process. Herpetic rashes may appear around the lips and nostrils. 2-3 days after the onset of the disease, brownish-rusty sputum begins to be released with a cough. Urine also becomes dark in color and is excreted in small quantities.
  5. If you do not consult a doctor in a timely manner, disruption of the functioning of the cardiovascular and nervous systems may occur, which is manifested by rapid heartbeat and headaches. But the most serious consequence is pulmonary , which is fatal. If the course of pneumonia is favorable, improvement occurs on days 7-9.
  6. With focal pneumonia, when individual areas of the lung are involved in the inflammatory process, the symptoms may be mild and most often resemble bronchitis. The disease can continue for a long time, either subsiding or forming new foci of inflammation. Often, due to the lack of proper treatment, focal pneumonia leaves adhesions in the lungs .
  7. You should consult a doctor at the first questionable pain in the chest. This will allow you to receive timely and correct treatment for pneumonia and help avoid all possible complications.

Symptoms of pneumonia

Pneumonia has a number of characteristic clinical symptoms that suggest the presence of an inflammatory process in the lungs. These include:

  • dyspnea;
  • dry cough;
  • increased sweating;
  • bluish tint of the nasolabial triangle;
  • pale skin;
  • heat;
  • fatigue and weakness.

Inflammation of the lungs can be diagnosed by an acute respiratory infection or acute respiratory viral infection that has been ongoing for too long, a temperature that does not decrease after taking antipyretic drugs, or a person’s prolonged and causeless low-grade body temperature.

It should be remembered that in many forms of pneumonia, classic symptoms may not be observed. In some cases, inflammation can develop in an acute form, when the temperature rises to 40 degrees and the patient develops a cough with purulent discharge.

In children, pneumonia can develop very quickly due to the characteristics of children's physiology and immune system. The specificity of pneumonia is that the clinical picture in specific cases can be very different and occur in an adult with completely different symptoms that are not similar to the symptoms observed in childhood.

How to determine pneumonia: general rules

  • Peculiarities
  • How to determine

An intense rhythm of life, a changeable climate, a consistently poor environment, frequent colds, a high level of resistance of microorganisms to antibacterial drugs - all this undermines the body's defenses and can lead to serious diseases, many of which are often practically asymptomatic.

Pneumonia, otherwise known as pneumonia, is one of these “silent killers”: the symptoms can be subtle, but the consequences can be critical and even fatal.

Therefore, it is so important for every person to be able to navigate in time and recognize the symptoms of the disease as early as possible in order to be able to seek help in time.

There are a number of “pre-hospital” symptoms that help answer the question of how to recognize pneumonia.

Conventionally, they can be classified:

  1. General or extrapulmonary symptoms - high fatigue, decreased performance, weakness, increased body temperature, chills, muscle pain, severe sweating, fever, shortness of breath, both in motion and at rest, dyspepsia and skin rash may occur.
  2. Pulmonary symptoms - wet cough, profuse sputum, pain when trying to take a deep breath. Sometimes purulent discharge streaked with blood appears.

Features of the development of the disease depending on the form of its manifestation

The nature of the course of pneumonia depends on the pathogen, the affected area, the general condition of the patient, his immunity, and age. The causative agents can be opportunistic microorganisms that are constantly present in the human body, pathogenic microorganisms, viruses, fungi.

Depending on the source of spread, the following forms of pneumonia are distinguished:

  1. Croupous form, in which the infection penetrates the parenchyma of the lung lobes.
  2. Focal form or bronchopneumonia.
  3. Atypical.

How to determine croupous pneumonia?

The croupous form is easier to diagnose. Its characteristic feature is a sharp rise in temperature, which stays above 39 C, headaches, shortness of breath, cough, at the beginning of the disease it is dry, but on the 5th day “rusty” sputum often appears, and chest pain. The causes of lung damage of this nature are often hypothermia and overwork.

How to recognize focal pneumonia?

Focal pneumonia occurs as a complication of respiratory diseases. The development of the disease is not nearly as rapid as in the croupous type.

There is a slight increase in temperature (as a rule, no higher than 38.5 C), and in people with weakened immunity, the temperature may be completely normal, an exhausting cough, light sputum of a mucopurulent nature, chest pain and shortness of breath may be absent. This form of inflammation is dangerous because many patients, despite increased fatigue and weakness, endure it “on their feet,” which can lead to serious complications.

How to determine atypical type of pneumonia?

The nature of the development of an atypical type of pneumonia depends entirely on the causative agent of the disease. Thus, pneumonia caused by dangerous legionella is characterized by an extremely severe course. There is a dry cough, chest pain, dyspepsia, pain in the joints, and a decrease in heart rate. This form often causes severe complications to internal organs.

Children experience pneumonia caused by chlamydia and mycoplasma. Frequent markers of the atypical form are sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, muscle pain, runny nose, etc.

How to determine pneumonia at home and in a hospital setting

It is worth approaching with particular responsibility the issue of timely detection of pneumonia in people at risk: alcohol abusers, those suffering from immunodeficiency conditions of various etiologies, elderly people, people in a socially dangerous situation.

There are several main points:

  • pneumonia should be suspected if there is a sharp decrease in activity, apathy, refusal to eat, increased drowsiness, or difficulty moving in older people;
  • in those suffering from alcohol dependence, the course of the disease is extremely severe, often complicated by alcoholic psychosis occurring against the background of pneumonia;
  • the appearance of wheezing over a healthy lung with increased shortness of breath indicates the possibility of pulmonary edema;
  • Specific indicators of pneumonia are unilateral flushing of the cheeks, significant increase in shortness of breath, increased heart rate and dry tongue.

Should be understood

No doctor would risk diagnosing a patient based solely on the presence of any general signs without confirming it with appropriate research. However, the presence of markers of pneumonia in the medical history is a signal for an immediate visit to a specialist.

Diagnosis of pneumonia in a clinical setting

  1. The main and most informative way to confirm suspicions of pneumonia is to perform a chest x-ray in two projections. An x-ray allows you to examine the focus of the disease in the image and confirm or refute the diagnosis.
  2. In addition, laboratory tests are required : to identify the pathogen, a bacteriological analysis of sputum, bronchoscopy is carried out, specific blood tests and other studies are prescribed as necessary.

Due to the high likelihood of severe complications, it is extremely important to treat pneumonia in a hospital setting under the close supervision of medical professionals.

Symptoms of the disease

Depending on the type of pneumonia, the disease may be accompanied by various symptoms. In some cases, it can be mistaken for a banal cold and not pay due attention to the inflammatory process.

How to identify pneumonia? First you need to know the general symptoms of this disease and not miss their appearance:

  1. Shortness of breath of varying severity, which directly depends on the severity of the inflammatory process.
  2. In elderly people or in the presence of cardiovascular pathologies, cyanosis appears in the abdomen and nasolabial part of the face.
  3. A cough with pneumonia first appears dry. After a few days it becomes wet, with the release of purulent sputum.
  4. Elevated body temperature indicates an inflammatory process.
  5. Constant feeling of fatigue, weakness, overwork.
  6. Pneumonia is characterized by muscle pain and frequent headaches.

The listed signs may indicate other diseases, but regardless of this, they require a visit to the doctor and a thorough diagnosis.

How to diagnose pneumonia

Pneumonia is caused by infection with bacteria, viruses or fungi. There are a lot of microorganisms, including the causative agents of pneumonia, around, they even live in a person’s mouth, but if the body’s immune system works well, they do not penetrate the respiratory tract. When it weakens, an inflammatory process begins to develop. It is important to identify this disease in time, since it is very dangerous and poses a serious threat to life.


  1. Pay attention to signs of pneumonia : general weakness, profuse sweating, headache and chest pain, shortness of breath, and cough. The cough occurs with colorless sputum, and sometimes interspersed with blood. But these symptoms can also be mild.
  2. Sometimes a person with pneumonia will have a change in skin color, becoming darker or redder due to poor oxygen saturation of the blood - this is called cyanosis. First of all, it appears around the mouth. The cheeks can be colored differently - one is brighter than the other.
  3. Observe the breathing process. Undress the patient to the waist and ask him to take several deep breaths, then hold his breath and exhale sharply. The half of the chest that is affected by pneumonia moves more slowly or does not move at all.
  4. Do not delay calling a doctor: the sooner he diagnoses inflammation
    , the faster and easier this disease will pass.
    Diagnosis begins with listening to the lungs . The doctor may hear weakened breathing on the side affected by inflammation
    , moist rales, or even friction and dry wheezing if the pleura is affected.
  5. The doctor also performs percussion on the chest. The place where pneumonia develops has a different sound from a healthy place.
  6. The next diagnostic step is fluorography. In the photo of the lungs, you can see the focus of inflammation, and the radiologist may also determine the cause of the disease.
  7. Sick children usually do not undergo fluorography until they reach 15 years of age - due to the danger of x-ray radiation. If necessary, the disease is confirmed using an x-ray. The difference between this method and fluorographic examination is that pictures of the lungs can be taken from different positions.
  8. To diagnose pneumonia, a sputum test is also required. First of all, the laboratory assistant finds out whether the culture of the test substance contains mycobacteria, the causative agents of tuberculosis. Next, sensitivity to antibiotics is determined: those that most effectively fight the pathogen that has affected the patient’s lungs are identified. This is necessary to prescribe treatment.
  9. A general blood test is also required for diagnosing the disease, with the help of which the erythrocyte sedimentation rate and the number of leukocytes, as well as the content of eosinophils, are calculated.
  10. To establish a diagnosis and exclude diseases similar to pneumonia, a large number of special studies are required that cannot be carried out at home, which means that if pneumonia is suspected, you should contact a specialist as soon as possible.

Differences from other diseases

When making a diagnosis, it is necessary to distinguish pneumonia from other respiratory diseases:

  • Acute bronchitis: the patient will have a history of acute respiratory infections, or bronchitis will occur against its background. Characterized by a dry paroxysmal cough, later with the separation of mucous sputum. The temperature does not increase, or increases slightly and for a short time. An objective clinical examination reveals a normal percussion sound, harsh breathing and dry rales. The general blood test is normal; the x-ray shows an increased pulmonary pattern without darkening. Recovery, unlike pneumonia, occurs within one to two weeks. On the other hand, bronchitis in children can often develop into pneumonia.
  • Exudative pleurisy: there are many symptoms in common with pneumonia (productive cough, shortness of breath, high fever). X-rays can help in diagnosis, but if the amount of fluid in the pleural cavity is insignificant, it is detected using an ultrasound of the lungs. Also, in case of prolonged ineffectiveness of antibacterial therapy, pleural puncture will help diagnose pleurisy.
  • Lung cancer: If the tumor blocks the bronchus and causes atelectasis, symptoms similar to pneumonia may develop. In this case, medical history plays an important role (smoking, hemoptysis, weight loss). Enlarged lymph nodes may be observed. The most informative will be a tomographic examination, which can help determine a lung tumor.
  • Tuberculosis: May be accompanied by high fever and cough. Differential diagnosis is carried out using the Mantoux test in children, as well as radiography, computed tomography and sputum analysis for the presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. An X-ray of tuberculosis shows rounded shadows with clear contours without enhancing the pulmonary pattern; a characteristic path is from the shadow to the root of the lung.
  • “Acute abdomen”: pleuropneumonia (usually lobar) sometimes simulates the picture of an “acute abdomen”. This sometimes occurs in children and often surgeons perform unnecessary surgery before identifying pneumonia. In order to avoid such a mistake, it is imperative to consult a therapist and order an x-ray.
  • Diseases of the cardiovascular system: often in older patients there are no pronounced symptoms of pneumonia and a low-grade fever remains. In this case, chest pain and cough are attributed to angina pectoris or circulatory failure. Conducting an ECG and X-ray in parallel helps to figure it out.

Symptoms of pneumonia. How can you tell if you have pneumonia?


Olga Morozova

Temperature is maintained; chest pain (with pleuropneumonia); difficulty breathing; blush on one cheek


X-ray picture, plus clinical picture. These are the only two mandatory signs. the absence of any of them is excluded.

Vladimir Reyzin

Stick a phonendoscope into your ears and listen to your wheezing. Percusse your chest - there may be a dullness of the percussion sound. Well, if you have an X-ray machine at home, then the flag is in your hands - take an X-ray of your lungs - from the image you will understand whether you have pneumonia or not.

Yulia Smirnova

In a cowl worker it can be almost asymptomatic: he has a little fever, coughs a little... Therefore, if there is a suspicion, it is better to check with a doctor.

The first signs of pneumonia in children and adults

Pneumonia is a disease that is of infectious origin and is characterized by inflammation of the lung tissue when provoking physical or chemical factors occur, such as:

  • Complications after viral diseases (influenza, ARVI), atypical bacteria (chlamydia, mycoplasma, legionella)
  • Exposure to the respiratory system of various chemical agents - toxic vapors and gases (see chlorine in household chemicals is hazardous to health)
  • Radioactive radiation, which is associated with infection
  • Allergic processes in the lungs - allergic cough, COPD, bronchial asthma
  • Thermal factors - hypothermia or burns of the respiratory tract
  • Inhalation of liquids, food, or foreign bodies can cause aspiration pneumonia.

The cause of the development of pneumonia is the emergence of favorable conditions for the proliferation of various pathogenic bacteria in the lower respiratory tract. The original causative agent of pneumonia is the Aspergillus fungus, which was the culprit in the sudden and mysterious deaths of researchers of the Egyptian pyramids. Owners of poultry or fanciers of urban pigeons may become ill with chlamydial pneumonia.

Today all pneumonias are divided into:

  • community-acquired, arising under the influence of various infectious and non-infectious agents outside the walls of hospitals
  • hospital infections, which cause nosocomial microbes that are often very resistant to traditional antibacterial treatment.

The frequency of detection of various infectious pathogens in community-acquired pneumonia is presented in the table.

PathogenAverage % detection
Streptococcus is the most common pathogen. Pneumonia caused by this pathogen is the leader in the incidence of mortality from pneumonia. 30,4%
Mycoplasma - most often affects children and young people.12,6%
Chlamydia – chlamydial pneumonia is typical for young and middle-aged people.12,6%
Legionella is a rare pathogen that affects weakened people and is the leader after streptococcus in the frequency of deaths (infection in rooms with artificial ventilation - shopping centers, airports)4,7%
Haemophilus influenzae - causes pneumonia in patients with chronic diseases of the bronchi and lungs, as well as in smokers.4,4%
Enterobacteriaceae are rare pathogens that mainly affect patients with renal/liver failure, heart failure, and diabetes mellitus.3,1%
Staphylococcus is a common causative agent of pneumonia in the elderly population and complications in patients after influenza.0,5%
Other pathogens2,0%
The causative agent has not been identified39,5%

When the diagnosis is confirmed, depending on the type of pathogen, the age of the patient, the presence of concomitant diseases, appropriate therapy is carried out; in severe cases, treatment must be carried out in a hospital setting; in mild forms of inflammation, hospitalization of the patient is not necessary.

The characteristic first signs of pneumonia, the extent of the inflammatory process, acute development and the danger of serious complications if not treated in a timely manner are the main reasons for the population to urgently seek medical help. Currently, a fairly high level of development of medicine, improved diagnostic methods, as well as a huge list of broad-spectrum antibacterial drugs have significantly reduced the mortality rate from pneumonia (see antibiotics for bronchitis).

Typical first signs of pneumonia in adults

The main symptom of the development of pneumonia is a cough, usually at first it is dry, obsessive and persistent (see antitussives, expectorants for dry cough), but in rare cases, the cough at the onset of the disease may be rare and not severe. Then, as inflammation develops, the cough during pneumonia becomes wet with the release of mucopurulent sputum (yellow-green).

Any cold viral disease should not last more than 7 days, and a sharp deterioration in condition 4-7 days after the onset of acute respiratory viral infection or flu indicates the onset of an inflammatory process in the lower respiratory tract.

Body temperature can be very high up to 39-40C, or it can remain subfebrile 37.1-37.5C ​​(with atypical pneumonia). Therefore, even with low body temperature, cough, weakness and other signs of malaise, you should definitely consult a doctor. A repeated jump in temperature after a light interval during the course of a viral infection should be alarming.

If a patient has a very high temperature, then one of the signs of inflammation in the lungs is the ineffectiveness of antipyretic drugs.

Pain when taking a deep breath and coughing. The lung itself does not hurt, since it is devoid of pain receptors, but the involvement of the pleura in the process gives a pronounced pain syndrome.

In addition to cold symptoms, the patient experiences shortness of breath and pale skin. General weakness, increased sweating, chills, and decreased appetite are also characteristic of intoxication and the onset of an inflammatory process in the lungs.

If such symptoms appear either in the midst of a cold, or several days after improvement, these may be the first signs of pneumonia. The patient should immediately consult a doctor to undergo a full examination:

  • Take blood tests - general and biochemical
  • Take a chest x-ray and, if necessary, a computed tomography scan
  • Submit sputum for culture and determine the sensitivity of the pathogen to antibiotics
  • Submit sputum for culture and microscopic determination of Mycobacterium tuberculosis


The inflammatory process in pulmonary tissues can be both infectious and non-infectious. In medicine, a number of bacteria and viruses are identified that can cause pneumonia:

  • Pneumococci.
  • Streptococci.
  • Mycoplasma.
  • Influenza and herpes viruses.
  • Adenoviruses.
  • Fungi (eg candida).

If the disease is non-infectious in nature, then most often it is provoked by other factors:

  • Poisonous substances that a person has inhaled.
  • Trauma in the chest area.
  • Burn of the respiratory tract.
  • Treatment using radiation therapy.

Often, the disease can develop against the background of another dangerous pathology. In this case, the cause of pneumonia may be measles, anthrax, or scarlet fever.

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