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Pneumonia: When To Seek Medical Attention

October 30, 2013

Morrisville – Pneumonia is a common illness that affects millions of people each year in the United States. Copley Hospital’s Emergency Services Nurse Manager Susan Rivera, RN describes pneumonia as an illness that is more than a ‘bad cold’. “Because symptoms often mimic those of flu some people do not realize they have pneumonia until they become so ill they need emergent medical attention,” Rivera says. Pneumonia can range in severity from mild to life-threatening. “Pneumonia is a serious illness if not treated in a timely fashion,” she says. Young children, adults over 65, and people who have cardiac and respiratory problems or a weakened immune system are particularly vulnerable to pneumonia.

Rivera explains that pneumonia can be the result of a germ that gets into your lungs. The three most common germs are bacteria, viruses and fungi all of which can be encountered in the environment. While our bodies usually keep these microbes from getting into our lungs, sometimes a germ gets by. “Other causes can be from a brewing illness that can cause you to be immobile, or not able to take deep breaths to open your lungs and cough out the mucus,” says Rivera.

Pneumonia symptoms may include fever, shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, headache, sweating, muscle pain and fatigue. If you’re an older adult or you smoke, drink excessively, have an injury, are undergoing chemotherapy or taking medication that suppresses your immune system and have the symptoms of pneumonia, you should seek medical attention prompty. For some older adults and people with heart failure or some form of lung disease, pneumonia can quickly become a life-threatening condition.

Rivera notes that the best way to avoid getting pnemonia is by following a healthy lifestyle. “That includes washing your hands frequently, don’t smoke, stay rested, exercise and eat a healthy diet.” She also recommends getting your seasonal flu shot and for everyone older than 65, getting the pneumonia vaccine as well.

For those diagnosed with pneumonia, but at a low-risk Rivera offers the following tips for recovering at home:

  • Get plenty of rest. Do not overdo even if you start feeling better.
  • Stay at home until your temperature returns to normal.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Liquids keep you from becoming dehydrated and helps loosen mucus in your lungs.
  • If you have been prescribed medications, take the entire course.
  • Keep all follow-up appointments will your doctor as it’s important to monitor your progress.


Copley Hospital is greater Lamoille County’s non-profit community hospital and one of the area’s largest employers. It was recently named one of the Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals in the United States by The National Rural Health Association (NRHA). Copley provides excellent, compassionate care in several core services, including: women’s and children’s health services, emergency services, general surgery and orthopedics, along with access to a variety of medical specialists including cardiology, oncology, sleep medicine and urology on its campus in Morrisville. Committed to fostering wellness, Copley sponsors community education opportunities, focusing primarily on diabetes, obesity, heart health, and personal safety. Last year, Copley provided more than $1 million in charitable care. Visit or call 802-888-8888 for more information