Bacterial Pneumonia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Bacterial pneumonia is a respiratory infection caused by bacterial agents. It has serious symptoms. Is bacterial pneumonia contagious? How to treat it?

The infection of lungs that is caused by bacterial pathogens is usually referred to as bacterial pneumonia. Individuals who suffer from this condition usually complain of significant discomfort in the throat, fever, persistent cough and pain in the chest in addition to copious mucus production and shortness of breath. It is imperative to mention that some patients may not experience all the symptoms of bacterial pneumonia listed above; which is why clinical signs and radiological investigation is very important.

Bacterial pneumonia in children and old age people can lead to even more dangerous consequences, and can cause major health issues as a result of weaken immune system.

What Causes Bacterial Pneumonia?

The most common type of pneumonia is community-acquired pneumonia which is usually acquired from the community settings (or outside of health care venues like hospitals and dispensaries).

The bacterial pneumonia is usually caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae in U.S, and is mostly reported after you had a trivial but poorly managed flu or cold infection. Bacterial pneumonia mostly affects the lower lobe of the lungs. The other major bacteria that cause bacterial pneumonia includes Haemophilus influenzae, Mycoplasma pneumonia(primary causative agent of walking pneumonia that is very common in the adults under the age of 40 years), Chlamydia pneumonia and Legionella pneumoniae.

There is another variant of bacterial pneumonia that is referred to as hospital-acquired pneumonia that usually affects the people who are admitted in the hospital for the management of another health issue. The cause of this infection is usually impaired immunity and low host-defenses. It is important to mention that such bacterial pneumonias are more serious because of low immunity and high risk of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Even the patients who get medical care in hospitals in the form of oxygen and ventilators are on higher risk due to the direct contact with contaminated machines used by other patients.

Is Bacterial Pneumonia Contagious?

It is hard to say with precision regarding the contagious nature of bacterial pneumonia. It is safe to assume that the risk is variable depending on the type of bacteria.

Most bacterial pneumonias are not highly contagious but some exceptions exist such as walking pneumonia by Mycoplasma pneumoniae and tuberculosis. They can be easily spread among individuals through breathing or from coughing and sneezing.

Symptoms of Bacterial Pneumonia


There is no clear-cut demarcation of symptoms in bacterial pneumonia. However, more cases are reported around the extremes of age (especially in elderly over the age of 65 years). The bacterial pneumonia usually starts with normal respiratory tract infection in upper part of lungs and presents with flu and fever. Some symptoms that usually occur before the onset of bacterial pneumonia includes:

  • Coughing: Coughing is usually severe with frequent production of thick (often clear or yellowish white) sputum or mucus. In severe case, the sputum may be rusty and green due to altered blood in it.
  • Fever and cold: These symptoms are less common in older adults.
  • Body shake and chills leading to teeth chattering.
  • Shortness of breath (or breathlessness)
  • Chest pain: This is usually a result of extreme coughing and may cause difficulty in breathing as well.
  • Fast heartbeat (also referred to as tachycardia in medical terms) and palpitation.
  • Tiredness and weakness.
  • Nausea along with vomiting and diarrhea.

Bacterial Pneumonia in Children

The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia are more noticeable in young children. Oder adults usually present with mild or no fever, or coughing with less or no mucus. The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia are different for children of different age groups.

  • The symptoms in children under 1 month of age include weakness or lethargy, poor feeding, fever, or grunting.
  • The symptoms in older children are the same as adults. They mostly have cough and difficulty in breathing.
  • Children might also face these symptoms in case if they are having bronchitis, tuberculosis, or COPD. So, the suggestion is to always consult your doctor and confirm the disease before following any remedies by yourself.

When to See a Doctor

It is highly recommended to see a doctor if you are experiencing signs of severe infection such as difficulty in breathing, pain in the chest, fever (more than 102 degree F) and continuous coughing. Some other indications when it becomes mandatory to consult a doctor include:

  • When children (under 2 years of age) are developing signs of bacterial pneumonia.
  • When people over the age of 65 develop the signs and symptoms of bacterial pneumonia.
  • People with weak immune system and existing serious health issues.
  • People going through a medical procedure especially chemotherapy; or those who are taking medications that weaken the immune system in any way.
  • It can dangerously damage health and can even cause life threatening problems to individuals with heart failure or lung disease.

How Is Bacterial Pneumonia Treated?


Medications are the first agents that people use to treat bacterial pneumonias, some are discussed as under:

  • Antibiotics: In some cases antibiotics work wonders but in some cases, there is little effect. You must find the actual cause of infection. This helps in choosing the best suitable antibiotic according to the causative agent.
  • Fever Reducers: Doctors also suggest fever reducers in case of high fever. These include medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.
  • Cough Medicines: They agents help in managing the symptoms of sore throat and discomfort by reducing the continuous coughing. It basically does not eliminate the cough completely but helps in loosening and moving the fluid present in the lung spaces.


Hospitalization is highly advised in these situations:

  • The patient is more than 65 years of age
  • The patient gets confused about things including time, people, places etc.
  • Decrease in blood pressure and infrequent breathing
  • Breathing assistance is needed
  • The temperature drops phenomenally
  • Heart rate decreases and reaches below 50

Intensive care is required if:

  • The patient’s age is less than 2 months
  • Patient develops excessive sleepiness
  • Serious trouble in breathing
  • Temperature drops and get lower than normal
  • Oxygen blood level drops and feels dehydration
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