April 20, 2014
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Flu (Seasonal)

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Pneumonia

(Lung Infection, Respiratory Infection, Chest Infection)

The Facts on Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs that is usually caused by infection. Pneumonia can also be caused by inhaling irritants such as vomit, liquids, or chemicals. With pneumonia, the air sacs in the lungs fill with liquid or pus, which interferes with the lungs' ability to transfer oxygen to the blood.

Before the invention of antibiotics in the 1930s, pneumonia was a leading cause of death. Though it has since become very treatable, pneumonia remains a public health problem.

There are many different kinds of pneumonia, ranging from mild to severe. There are 4 basic types:

  • Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), the most common type of pneumonia, is caused by bacteria, viruses, and other organisms that are acquired outside of the hospital or other health care settings.
  • Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) occurs at least 48 hours after someone has been admitted to the hospital. It can be caused by bacteria and other organisms that are usually different from CAP. HAP is usually more serious than CAP because the bacteria and organisms can be harder to treat, and because people who get HAP are already sick.
  • Aspiration pneumonia occurs when liquids or other irritants are inhaled into the lungs. The most common type of aspiration pneumonia is caused by inhaling stomach contents after vomiting. People with medical problems (e.g., stroke, ALS) that affect swallowing are at an increased risk of this type of pneumonia.
  • Opportunistic pneumonia occurs in people with weakened immune system (e.g., people with AIDS, cancer, organ transplant). Organisms that are not usually harmful to people with healthy immune systems cause these types of infections.

Pneumonia rarely causes serious complications for healthy people under 65 years of age. People who suffer from chronic respiratory diseases or who have compromised immune systems are generally at greater risk for developing pneumonia.

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Do I have the flu?

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  • sudden onset of fever or
  • sudden onset of cough


  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • sore throat
  • body or muscle aches
  • chills
  • headache
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • poor appetite
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea


  • people 65 years old or over
  • children under 5 years old
  • pregnant women
  • people who are obese
  • people living in a long-term care facility or nursing home
  • people with any of the following medical conditions:
    • asthma
    • cancer
    • chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
    • diabetes
    • heart disease
    • kidney disease
    • weakened immune system (e.g., HIV/AIDS)


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It's unlikely that you have the flu.

You may have the flu.

You probably have the flu.

But you do have at least 1 risk factor that puts you at risk of flu complications. If you do experience any flu symptoms, talk to your doctor or visit a walk-in clinic as soon as possible.

And you may also have at least 1 risk factor that put you at risk of flu complications.

Talk to your doctor or visit a walk-in clinic if your symptoms concern you or if they get worse.

Talk to your doctor or visit a walk-in clinic as soon as possible.

Enter your postal code to find a clinic near you:  

Know the flu basics and how you can protect yourself and your family.

NOTE: If your symptoms still concern you, speak to your doctor or go to a walk-in clinic as soon as possible.

Flu complications include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, or worsening of existing chronic conditions

If your doctor prescribes an antiviral medication, start the medication within 48 hours after your symptoms begin. Antivirals, when started within 48 hours after symptoms begin, can help relieve flu symptoms and make the flu less severe.

Home treatment options for the flu include getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, treating symptoms (such as using a pain reliever for body aches and fever), and avoiding contact with others.

Other treatment options for the flu include home treatments like getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, treating symptoms (such as using a pain reliever for body aches and fever), and avoiding contact with others.

Get the facts about the 2 main types of medications used to treat the flu and home treatments you can try.

If you experience any of these severe symptoms, seek medical help right away:

  • shortness of breath, rapid or difficulty breathing
  • chest pain
  • bluish or grey skin colour
  • bloody or coloured mucus/spit
  • severe or continuous vomiting
  • sudden dizziness or confusion
  • high fever that's lasted more than 3 days
  • low blood pressure
  • stiff neck, sensitivity to light
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Other resources about flu:


Causes of Pneumonia

The most common causes of pneumonia are infections caused by:

  • bacteria - the most common cause of pneumonia in adults
  • viruses - often responsible for pneumonia in children
  • mycoplasma - organisms that have characteristics of bacteria and viruses that cause milder infections
  • opportunistic organisms - a threat to people with vulnerable immune systems (e.g., Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in people who have AIDS)

Most types of pneumonia are transmitted in the same way as influenza or the common cold - by people's hands and by tiny droplets from their mouths and noses. In fact, the same viruses that cause colds and the flu can cause pneumonia. If they infect the throat, sinuses, and upper respiratory tract, they cause a cold. If they reach the lungs, they cause pneumonia.

Bacteria that live permanently in many peoples' throats cause some of the more severe types of pneumonia. Normally, the immune system keeps them in check. If someone is weakened by a throat virus, these bacteria can trickle down into the respiratory tract. Bacterial pneumonia is most often caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus).

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common cause of pneumonia in infants and young children. It peaks sharply around December and January and usually isn't a life-threatening disease, though some individuals can be seriously affected. Viruses cause about half of all cases of pneumonia.

Mycoplasma causes the illness called "walking pneumonia," so-called because people who have it are not confined to bed.

A fungus called Pneumocystis carinii is usually seen only in people who have AIDS. This parasite is normally harmless, but in people with HIV it can cause an aggressive and often fatal pneumonia.

In addition to infectious diseases, people can get pneumonia from chemicals that enter the lungs and inflame them. Aspiration pneumonia is caused by accidentally inhaling food, vomit, or digestive acid into the lungs. The inhaled substance may become infected, or it may inflame the lungs and cause them to fill with liquid.

A person who has a higher risk of pneumonia:

  • is under one year of age or over the age of 65
  • is a smoker
  • has a cold or flu
  • has a weak immune system due to cancer therapy, HIV infection, or other disease
  • is undergoing surgery
  • has a problem with alcohol use
  • has a chronic illness such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
  • has a chronic lung disease, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease




Symptoms and Complications of Pneumonia

Symptoms of pneumonia can vary depending on the cause of the pneumonia and the general health of the person who has pneumonia.

Pneumonia always causes a cough, which often produces sputum. Red-brown, green, or yellow sputum may be a sign of bacterial infection. Thin, whitish sputum is a possible indicator of mycoplasma or viral pneumonia.

In bacterial pneumonia, all or part of the lungs slowly fill with liquid in a process called consolidation. Some bacterial lung infections develop over just a few hours. There's usually a high fever, sometimes going up to 40.9°C (105°F).

Other possible symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • shivering
  • chills
  • headache
  • delirium (confusion)
  • severe bad breath
  • muscle pain
  • weakness
  • chest pain, especially when breathing deeply
  • blue lips and nail beds from lack of oxygen in the blood

Viral pneumonias don't actually cause the lungs to fill with liquid; instead, they inflame the actual lung tissue itself. They are usually milder than bacterial infections. An exception is the influenza virus, which can be very serious.

Typically, viral pneumonia causes these symptoms:

  • dry cough
  • minimal sputum
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • weakness and fatigue
  • moderate fever, up to about 39°C (102°F)
  • chills
  • shortness of breath
  • blue lips and nail beds

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