Information for Patients
Pneumonia is an infection in one or both of the lungs. Many germs, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, can cause pneumonia. You can also get pneumonia by inhaling a liquid or chemical. People most at risk are older than 65 or younger than 2 years of age, or already have health problems.
Symptoms of pneumonia vary from mild to severe. See your doctor promptly if you
- Have a high fever
- Have shaking chills
- Have a cough with phlegm that doesn't improve or gets worse
- Develop shortness of breath with normal daily activities
- Have chest pain when you breathe or cough
- Feel suddenly worse after a cold or the flu
Your doctor will use your medical history, a physical exam, and lab tests to diagnose pneumonia. Treatment depends on what kind you have. If bacteria are the cause, antibiotics should help. If you have viral pneumonia, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine to treat it.
Preventing pneumonia is always better than treating it. Vaccines are available to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia and the flu. Other preventive measures include washing your hands frequently and not smoking.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
What are Staphylococcal (staph) infections?
Staphylococcus (staph) is a group of bacteria. There are more than 30 types. A type called Staphylococcus aureus causes most infections.
Staph bacteria can cause many different types of infections, including
- Skin infections, which are the most common types of staph infections
- Bacteremia, an infection of the bloodstream. This can lead to sepsis, a very serious immune response to infection.
- Bone infections
- Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves
- Food poisoning
- Toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a life-threatening condition caused by toxins from certain types of bacteria
What causes staph infections?
Some people carry staph bacteria on their skin or in their noses, but they do not get an infection. But if they get a cut or wound, the bacteria can enter the body and cause an infection.
Staph bacteria can spread from person to person. They can also spread on objects, such as towels, clothing, door handles, athletic equipment, and remotes. If you have staph and do not handle food properly when you are preparing it, you can also spread staph to others.
Who is at risk for staph infections?
Anyone can develop a staph infection, but certain people are at greater risk, including those who
- Have a chronic condition such as diabetes, cancer, vascular disease, eczema, and lung disease
- Have a weakened immune system, such as from HIV/AIDS, medicines to prevent organ rejection, or chemotherapy
- Had surgery
- Use a catheter, breathing tube, or feeding tube
- Are on dialysis
- Inject illegal drugs
- Do contact sports, since you may have skin-to-skin contact with others or share equipment
What are the symptoms of staph infections?
The symptoms of a staph infection depend on the type of infection:
- Skin infections can look like pimples or boils. They may be red, swollen, and painful. Sometimes there is pus or other drainage. They can turn into impetigo, which turns into a crust on the skin, or cellulitis, a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot.
- Bone infections can cause pain, swelling, warmth, and redness in the infected area. You may also have chills and a fever.
- Endocarditis causes some flu-like symptoms: fever, chills, and fatigue. It also causes symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and fluid buildup in your arms or legs.
- Food poisoning typically causes nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and a fever. If you lose too many fluids, you may also become dehydrated.
- Pneumonia symptoms include a high fever, chills, and cough that doesn't get better. You may also have chest pain and shortness of breath.
- Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) causes high fever, sudden low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, and confusion. You may have a sunburn-like rash somewhere on your body. TSS can lead to organ failure.
How are staph infections diagnosed?
Your health care provider will do a physical exam and ask about your symptoms. Often, providers can tell if you have a staph skin infection by looking at it. To check for other types of staph infections, providers may do a culture, with a skin scraping, tissue sample, stool sample, or throat or nasal swabs. There may be other tests, such as imaging tests, depending on the type of infection.
What are the treatments for staph infections?
Treatment for staph infections is antibiotics. Depending on the type of infection, you may get a cream, ointment, medicines (to swallow), or intravenous (IV). If you have an infected wound, your provider might drain it. Sometimes you may need surgery for bone infections.
Some staph infections, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), are resistant to many antibiotics. There are still certain antibiotics that can treat these infections.
Can staph infections be prevented?
Certain steps can help to prevent staph infections:
- Use good hygiene, including washing your hands often
- Don't share towels, sheets, or clothing with someone who has a staph infection
- It's best not to share athletic equipment. If you do need to share, make sure that it properly cleaned and dried before you use it.
- Practice food safety, including not preparing food for others when you have a staph infection
- If you have a cut or wound, keep it covered
Uncommon Infant and Newborn Problems
It can be scary when your baby is sick, especially when it is not an everyday problem like a cold or a fever. You may not know whether the problem is serious or how to treat it. If you have concerns about your baby's health, call your health care provider right away.
Learning information about your baby's condition can help ease your worry. Do not be afraid to ask questions about your baby's care. By working together with your health care provider, you make sure that your baby gets the best care possible.