Sepsis and Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs. The infection can be only in one lung, or it can be in both. There are several causes of pneumonia but the most common are:

Left untreated, the infection can be deadly. In the days before antibiotics, it’s estimated that about one-third of those who developed bacterial pneumonia died.

Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, including pneumonia. Pneumonia can be community-acquired, meaning someone develops pneumonia outside of the hospital. Pneumonia can also develop in a hospital or other healthcare facility, caused by a healthcare-associated infection (HAI). HAIs affect 1.7 million hospitalizations in the United States every year. An HAI is an infection contracted by people who are in the hospital for a different reason, such as surgery or treatment for another illness.

Sepsis, which was often called blood poisoning, is the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Suggested Citation:
Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis and Pneumonia. 2024. https://www.sepsis.org/sepsisand/pneumonia/

Updated January 5, 2024.

 

Funding for this campaign was provided by unrestricted support from Dompé.

More About Pneumonia

Symptoms

Some people can have pneumonia and not know it, but the most common signs and symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Cough, with phlegm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Shaking chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain with breathing

You do not have to have all these symptoms to have pneumonia. You may have heard the term “walking pneumonia.” It’s not an official medical term, but it usually means that it is a mild case, producing milder, slower-to-develop symptoms.

Risk Factors

While anyone can develop pneumonia, some people are at higher risk than others. These include those who:

  • Are older
  • Are very young
  • Recently had a cold, influenza, or COVID-19
  • Smoke
  • Have a respiratory illness, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Were or are exposed to certain inhaled toxins
  • Recently had surgery
  • Are in an intensive care unit
  • Are malnourished
Treatment

Pneumonia treatment depends on the type of infection you have.

Bacterial

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial pneumonia. The type of antibiotic your doctor would choose depends on the bacteria causing the infection. If you have a prescription for antibiotics, you should finish all the medication, even if you start to feel better. You will begin to feel more like yourself before the infection is completely gone. If you stop the medications before the infection disappears, you could get a more serious pneumonia that can’t be treated as easily.

Viral

Viral pneumonia does not respond to antibiotics; they will not do any good. In general, there isn’t much that can be done for viral pneumonia other than advising that you rest and take in plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. In some cases, doctors may prescribe an anti-viral medication.

Fungal

Medications called anti-fungals treat fungal pneumonia.

Prevention

Sometimes we can prevent pneumonia. If you will have general anesthetic for  surgery, you could be at risk for developing a bacterial pneumonia. To lower the risk, you will be encouraged to get up and out of bed after the procedure, even if you may not feel up to it. If you can’t get up and move around, you will be encouraged to breathe deeply and cough on a regular basis. This is to help keep your lungs clear. You might be given a device called an incentive spirometer. This small device encourages you to take deep breaths, to expand your lungs.

There is a vaccine that can help prevent pneumococcal pneumonia, caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. The CDC recommends that all adults over 65 and adults over 18 with certain risk factors receive the vaccine.

There is also a vaccine for children to decrease their risk of developing one of four types of infections, including pneumonia:

  • Meningitis (infection in the brain)
  • Bacteremia (infection in the blood)
  • Otitis media (infection in the middle ear)
  • Pneumonia

Related Resources

Information Guide

LA SEPSIS Y LA NEUMONÍA

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Information Guide

Pneumonia

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Thomas Neavill

On April 7, 2022 I was admitted to the hospital with double pneumonia. (Sepsis and Pneumonia) I was there 10 days and over the next 7 months was admitted 5 more times. Meanwhile I was feeling weaker by the day. From December ‘22 to March ‘23 I lived in an altered state. My mental and physical condition was deteriorating. Finally, on March 25, 2023, I went to the emergency room where I was diagnosed with septic shock and Renal Failure. I spent 5 months in the hospital and 6 months recovering at home. I finally returned to work on February ... Read Full Story

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George Mellen

I was involved in a fall accident. I suffered 10 broken ribs, fractured scapula, 2 crushed vertebrae, and a grade 5 AC joint separation. None of my injuries caused any broken skin or lacerations. However, 3 days into my hospitalization, I was septic which resulted in kidney failure, endocarditis, on a respirator numerous cases of pneumonia and other infectious diseases. (Sepsis and Kidney Failure, Sepsis and Pneumonia) I was 76 days in the ICU and another 30 days in a rehabilitation hospital. Because of the severity of my situation none of my orthopedic injuries were addressed in that 106 days. ... Read Full Story

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Kerry Hecht

I got sick in December 2020 when Covid was in full swing. I was perfectly fine – completely normal. About halfway through a meeting, I started getting very tired and got terrible chills. I assumed, like everyone did then, that I had Covid. When I went to the urgent care to get tested – it was negative, and they sent me home. I loaded up on aspirin and was fine – actually, for a few days. Then, it returned. With a high fever, chills, and vomiting, I returned to the urgent care to get tested again for COVID-19. I was ... Read Full Story

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Michael Madajski

December 23, I began experiencing a slight cough, and by 12/27/23 I was in an ambulance on my way to the hospital unable to breathe with a blood oxygen saturation of 84%. I was waiting for my girlfriend to return from CA. I am an asthmatic and this was the occasion where no amount of rescue inhaler or nebulizer treatment had any positive effect on my breathing condition. I let it go a little too long but to my defense tried to access an Urgent Care that despite opening at 8am already had 30 people waiting. My lungs had worsened ... Read Full Story

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Paul Borgman

This is my story. It started four and a half years ago, at the age of 57. I had been fighting a chronic ulcer on my left foot due to non-diabetic neuropathy and also stress fractures in my metatarsal bones. I was being treated regularly by a podiatrist but wasn’t able to heal completely because as an energy engineer, I performed field audits and did a lot of walking. A few weeks after a visit to a hospital for some x-rays on my foot, I started feeling sick – urinary issues, lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite. Then in a few ... Read Full Story

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Pneumonia