Pneumonia and colds
February 9, 2019 12:18 PM   Subscribe

I had pneumonia about four weeks ago, without any symptoms such as a cough, cold or breathlessness. I'd like to understand this better and know whether I can do anything to prevent it happening again. I've also now got a bad cold with breathlessness and would like to know whether there's any risk of this re-igniting pneumonia.

My episode of pneumonia four weeks ago was rather scary with a sudden hospital admission. My symptoms were a temperature, aches, tiredness and my white blood cell count being off, but no signs of lung problems like breathlessness or low blood oxygen, so it took a while for pneumonia to be diagnosed, which it was following an x-ray. I am awaiting a post-treatment follow-up at a pneumonia clinic, which I think will probably just be another x-ray.

I had bronchitis this time last year and my GP at the time thought it was possible I also had pneumonia then.

What I'm interested in knowing is:

* how is it possible to have pneumonia without it affecting one's breathing?
* is there anything I can do to avoid getting it again? I have never smoked, am in my forties, wash my hands frequently - I am overweight and am not clear whether obesity is a factor.
* should I be worried about having a cold and resultant breathlessness 4 weeks after pneumonia?

posted by paduasoy to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You should ask your doctor about getting a pneumonia vaccination. It is helpful in people who have a lowered immune system or are prone to bronchitis.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:12 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]

The only "normal" symptoms I had when I nearly died from sepsis caused by pneumonia were a persistent cough and a fever. My blood ox was like 98; the doctor asked if I ran marathons because it was so good. I even have asthma! Blood ox really isn't a great indicator for things like this, I was told. I didn't have breathing problems, though I did hear a crackling sound when I breathed in (which should have been my first clue to get to the ER!). Even with severe pneumonia and asthma, I didn't have those symptoms. It just happens, I don't know if there's an explanation.

Anyway, I've been super cautious about anything related to breathing since then, and I was pretty vigilant before because of the asthma. Anytime I feel unusually breathless, I get to the doctor ASAP. And I was told by my doctors in the hospital that I should get a pneumonia vaccination every year as well.
posted by cooker girl at 4:04 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Get right back in to your doctor for an exam and maybe a chest xray, or just a white blood count, to make sure what ever course of antibiotics you took, was enough to end your lung infection. This is especially because you had sort of occult pneumonia, hidden, had to be discovered. You are worth a follow up.
posted by Oyéah at 4:34 PM on February 9

I had pneumonia diagnosed last winter after having bronchitis for several weeks. I had a persistent cough, but the thing that finally took me to the doctor was chest pain when I coughed. Actual rib pain. My old and wise MD was not available, and a new associate saw me. He listened carefully to my breathing and considered pneumonia, but concluded I didn't have it. No meds, just "be patient" and almost as an afterthought a script for a chest Xray.

I got the Xray and a couple of hours later got a call from the doctor. The radiologist had diagnosed pneumonia. The skeptical PCP had called him protesting that he hadn't heard anything indicative of pneumonia, but the radiologist countered. Pneumonia had been radiologically confirmed, and the PCP prescribed antibiotics. Within 3 days I felt substantially better, and I followed up several weeks later with a confirmatory Xray as directed.

I'd suggest you follow up with your GP and follow professional advice to have a chest Xray. You could easily have a new pneumonia, or one that hasn't responded to previous treatment. Pneumonia is an infection and needs to be correctly treated, even if the symptoms don't match what many people assume would be pneumonia symptoms.

The pneumonia vaccine mentioned above probably refers to the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine, which protects against a certain bacterial infection more common among the elderly. It doesn't protect against other bacteria or viruses. Again, check with your doctor.
posted by citygirl at 7:24 PM on February 9

You may have had Mycoplasma, a (not-so) uncommon bacterial pneumonia that used to be called "walking pneumonia" because the symptoms are so mild and the x-ray looks worse than the clinical picture. It's treated with different antibiotics than "regular" pneumonia and is not included in the shot a humble nudibranch mentions. It's worth asking your PCP if they specifically tested/treated you for that. There are also viral pneumonias but in my experience they are much more dramatic in terms of shortness of breath and high fever.

Keep washing your hands, etc, to lessen the risk of re-infecting yourself.
posted by basalganglia at 6:34 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

And get a new toothbrush three days in to antibiotics, or when you start feeling better from a cold. I hope you are feeling better.
posted by Oyéah at 3:44 PM on February 10

« Older Adding a few extra days to a business trip to...   |   ISO Reference (not recipe) book or website for... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments