“Don’t go out without a coat. You’ll get pneumonia.”
“Don’t stand next to an open window. You’ll get pneumonia.”
“Don’t go out with your hair wet. You’ll get pneumonia.”
Are any of the myths about pneumonia true? Or were they all just ways for our ancestors to scare their children into doing what they say?
The answer may surprise you: It’s a little of both. While some sayings about pneumonia may be completely fictitious, most are based on some slightly misguided truths.
Pneumonia is a lung infection. Specifically, it inflames your lungs’ air sacs, and the sacs may fill up with fluid or pus. In most cases, pneumonia is temporary and treatable. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, about 50,000 people die each year from the condition.
Symptoms of this lung infection can be very mild to life-threatening. They include:
• Cough, which may produce mucus
• Fever, sweating, and shaking chills
• Shortness of breath/rapid, shallow breathing
• Chest pain that worsens when you breathe deeply
• Loss of appetite
• Fatigue/low energy
• Confusion, especially in older people
Unless it’s a severe case, pneumonia is typically treated by taking prescribed medications, resting, drinking plenty of fluids to loosen secretions, and avoiding smoke and other lung irritants.
5 Myths about Pneumonia and the Real Truth
1. Myth: Pneumonia is just a bad cold.
Truth: The common cold is caused by a virus and typically does not require urgent medical care. In fact, self-care may be enough. Pneumonia is a bacterial infection in the lungs, which is more serious and requires treatment.
2. Myth: You can get pneumonia if you don’t wear a coat outside when it’s cold.
Truth: Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses, or possibly fungi.
3. Myth: Standing near a drafty window or going out with wet hair can give you pneumonia.
Truth: When you are cold, your body may possibly be less able to fight off infection and other illnesses, but the weather is not a direct cause of pneumonia.
4. Myth: Pneumonia is an infection within one person. It’s not contagious.
Truth: You can catch pneumonia sometimes, but it depends on what kind of pneumonia it is. Bacterial and viral infections can be spread from person to person, but fungal pneumonia cannot.
5. Myth: Pneumonia only affects older individuals.
Truth: Pneumonia can affect people of any age. However, older age is a significant risk factor, which is why people over the age of 65 are considered to be at higher risk. The lung infection may also be more serious in seniors because the immune system may be less effective. Infants and young children also are at high risk of getting pneumonia.
See a Pulmonary Care Physician
If you don’t feel well, don’t assume that it’s just the common cold or a flu. You should see a doctor to confirm the cause of your illness. If left untreated, pneumonia could worsen and lead to various other health issues.
If you do have symptoms of pneumonia, schedule an appointment with one of the seven physicians at Pulmonary and Critical Care Associates, P.C., located here in the Shelby Macomb Medical Mall.
If symptoms are severe, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.