Pneumonia Symptoms

Pneumonia is a serious illness that, if left untreated, can result in serious, life-threatening complications. Because early treatment is the best way to prevent pneumonia complications, be sure you know the symptoms of pneumonia. Early detection can pave the way for a speedy, safe recovery.

So, what are the symptoms of pneumonia? For most, pneumonia symptoms are much like cold and flu symptoms, making it difficult for some to realize they suffer from pneumonia. As the illness progresses, patients tend to experience some or all of the following pneumonia symptoms:

  • breathlessness
  • chest pain, especially when breathing deeply
  • chills
  • cough with phlegm (which is thick, green, yellow, clear or white)
  • delirium or mental confusion
  • diarrhea
  • earache
  • fatigue or weakness
  • headache
  • heavy breathing
  • high fever reaching up to 104° Fahrenheit
  • muscle pain
  • rapid heart rate
  • skin discoloration (purplish)
  • sore throat
  • sweating.

Different Types of Pneumonia

The precise symptoms a pneumonia patient has will depend on the cause of the pneumonia, the patient’s age and his current state of health. Although a variety of factors can cause pneumonia, bacterial and viral infections are responsible for most cases of pneumonia. While bacterial pneumonia is generally more severe than viral pneumonia, it also responds to antibiotic treatments, whereas viruses and viral infections don’t.

Bacterial Pneumonia Symptoms

Those suffering from viral pneumonia or upper respiratory infections may develop bacterial pneumonia. People can also contract bacterial pneumonia if they come into contact and inhale (or ingest) infected, contagious substances. The following symptoms indicate the presence of bacterial pneumonia:

  • chills
  • confusion (in older adults)
  • cough with thick, green or yellow mucus
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • sweating
  • vomiting or nausea.

In general, the symptoms of bacterial pneumonia tend to arise soon after infection.

Signs of Viral Pneumonia

Because cases of viral pneumonia tend to be less severe than bacterial pneumonia, symptoms usually don’t start appearing until a few days after you have been infected. Most people contract viral pneumonia by inhaling or ingesting the mucus, saliva or other secretions of an infected person.

For most, viral pneumonia symptoms start with a dry cough. After a few days, other common symptoms of viral pneumonia may include:

  • breathlessness
  • coughing that produces white or clear phlegm
  • earache
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • sore muscles
  • sore throat.

Symptoms for Other Types of Pneumonia

Walking pneumonia and other milder forms of viral pneumonia tend to have milder symptoms that usually allow people can continue with their daily lives with minimal discomfort. Unfortunately, while mild pneumonia symptoms aren’t too debilitating, they can cause infected people to unknowingly spread the condition to others, as some infected people won’t even realize they are sick.

For milder cases of pneumonia, the most common symptoms include weakness and dry cough.

Treatment for Pneumonia Symptoms

If you are experiencing any signs of pneumonia, consult your doctor. Many of the symptoms of pneumonia could actually be symptoms of bronchitis, tuberculosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Your healthcare professional will be able to properly diagnose the cause of your symptoms and help you find the right treatment.


Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (2008). Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved March 23, 2008, from the Web site.

MedicineNet, Inc. (2008). What are pneumonia symptoms? Retrieved March 23, 2008, from the Web site.

University of Maryland Medical Center (2008). Pneumonia. Retrieved March 23, 2008, from the Web site.