Be Vigilant during Pneumonia Season!


Not only is it flu season, it is also pneumonia season. Be sure to get your vaccinations and be vigilant about washing your hands. Lauren Van Scoy, MD, a COPD expert from, recently wrote about the different types of pneumonia.

Pneumonia, or infection in your lung, is most commonly diagnosed by a chest x-ray. There are five major types of pneumonia.


image044-1Bacterial pneumonia. This is a “typical pneumonia” which means that the bacteria that is responsible for the infection is one of the classic organisms: staphylococcus, streptococcus, and many others. There is also “atypical pneumonia” which is caused by other kinds of bacteria: Legionella, chlamydia, mycoplasma, and others. A sputum sample will report which bacteria is growing. People with a typical pneumonia classically have greenish sputum. This pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. Different antibiotics may be used based on the type of bacteria that is causing the infection.


Viral pneumonia. Viral pneumonia is slightly different than bacterial pneumonia with its typical symptoms of wheezing and a dry cough. Viral pneumonia is usually diagnosed with a nasal or oral swab. Treatment is usually fluids and rest, and sometimes anti-viral medications are used.


Aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia occurs in people who have swallowing problems, which often happens with advanced age, stroke or muscular disorders. When we swallow, parts of the throat move to protect food and particles from going into the lungs. When this mechanism is disrupt- ed, tiny food particles (with bacteria riding along on the particles) can land in the lung and flourish into a bacterial pneumonia. In addition, acid and bacteria that live in the GI tract may creep up the esophagus, into the throat, and get inhaled into the lungs, also causing pneumonia. Our swallowing mechanism protects this from happening but when this becomes disrupted, even mildly, an aspiration pneumonia may develop. Aspiration pneumonia is treated with antibiotics.


Fungal pneumonia. Fungal pneumonia classically affects people who have immune deficiencies, are on steroids, or perhaps have an underlying lung disease. Depending on the region of the country and the type of exposures you have, many different fungi – which live in air, soil and water – can cause pneumonia. Anti-fungal medications (called azoles) are used to treat fungal pneumonia either in pill or IV form.


Other pneumonia. There are several other miscellaneous forms of pneumonia. Tuberculosis, pneumocystis and other organisms can cause pneumonia. These types of infections require specialized treatment.