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Flu and Pneumonia – differences, similarities, diagnosing, and treatment. 

The flu can be somewhat common. Pneumonia is less common, however, both illnesses can still be extremely harmful. That is why it is important to be seen by a doctor or medical practitioner if you develop symptoms and are concerned that you may have the flu or pneumonia.  Before we dive into the details of modern-day treatments and symptoms, let’s take a quick look at the history of these two illnesses. 

Pneumonia has a long history in the United States. In the early 20th century, it was a leading cause of death among children and adults. As medical advances were made throughout the twentieth century, pneumonia deaths decreased significantly.

By 1999, fewer than 10 out of 100,000 Americans had died from pneumonia annually due to advancements in antibiotics and other treatments. Despite these improvements, pneumonia is still considered one of America’s top ten causes of death. Vaccines are now available, preventing some forms of bacterial pneumonia, such as Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib). There have been recent efforts to create vaccines for viral pneumonia-like SARS-CoV-2, which cause COVID-19 infections around the world today. Despite all this progress, many people continue to be at risk for contracting severe cases if they do not get vaccinated or make lifestyle changes that improve their overall health.

The flu has also had a long and complex history in the United States. The first recorded epidemic occurred in 1793 when an outbreak of “bilious remittent fever” spread across the country.

Over the next century, multiple waves of influenza outbreaks affected Americans at different levels. During WWI, for example, some soldiers reported being incapacitated by flu-like symptoms while stationed overseas.

During WWII, another significant wave resulted in almost 200,000 deaths on U.S. soil alone. In 1918, a particularly devastating strain called Spanish Flu swept through America and killed over 650,000 people – more than all American deaths from World War I. 

What to do when you feel ill.

If you are experiencing symptoms such as coughing, fever, chills, body aches, and fatigue that last more than a few days – go see your doctor right away or schedule a medical house call. A doctor or medical practitioner in your home will likely evaluate, examine you and tests you to determine if you have Influenza (the “flu”).  

If pneumonia is suspected based on your symptoms and examination, a chest x-ray would be ordered.        

‘Flu and pneumonia are both respiratory illnesses, but the two have differences in symptoms, severity, treatment, and prevention.’

The flu is an infection caused by a virus that affects the throat and lungs. Symptoms of the flu include fever or chills, cough with mucus production (sometimes bloody), headache, fatigue, weakness, body aches, muscle pain, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, and in some cases, nausea. The illness usually lasts no longer than two weeks.

Pneumonia, on the other hand, is a breathing (respiratory) condition where there is a lung infection that may be caused by a virus or bacteria. Community acquired pneumonia is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Most common bacteria are Streptococcus pneumonia, Mycoplasma pneumonia.

Its symptoms typically vary depending on age group, but they generally start out similar to Influenza. They tend to progress into more severe conditions, including shortness of breath and chest pain due to pleurisy (a painful inflammation around your lungs), coughing up phlegm (sometimes with blood), also known as hemoptysis in medical terms, and extreme exhaustion. All bacterial pneumonia are treated with antibiotics. 

Testing for the flu.

For the flu test, nasal swabbing samples are taken to confirm infection with one of several different types of viruses responsible for causing Influenza. Similarly, sputum testing is used to detect bacteria that cause bacterial pneumonia, like Streptococcus pneumonia. Chest X-rays may also be needed for further diagnosis, depending on the severity or other underlying medical conditions present. In some cases, X-ray evidence might suggest bacterial infections instead of viral ones when looking at the lungs themselves – this result will also require additional blood work. 

Testing for pneumonia.

Testing for pneumonia is similar, a doctor or medical practitioner will consider a patient’s history to determine if they have any risk factors for developing a more serious case of pneumonia (such as smoking or having chronic diseases) and then do a physical examination. Tests include chest X-ray, sputum culture (a test of mucus collected from the lungs), blood tests, and pulse oximetry (which measures oxygen levels in red blood cells). A pulmonary function test may also measure how well your lungs are working. In some cases, bronchoscopy (using thin tubes with cameras to look inside airways) may also be used. 

Treatment and prognosis for flu and pneumonia.

Treatment depends on how severe your illness is — whether it’s milder influenza A (H1N1), a more severe strain called H3N2, or even something else entirely like Mycoplasma, which can look similar but requires a specific antibiotic. Generally speaking, most people recover and without special treatments apart from rest. Tamiflu is prescribed within 48 hours of flu symptoms onset. Also, Tamiflu is also used to prevent the flu if you have come into close contact with someone who has the flu. Plenty of fluids and healthy nutrition during the recuperation phase is also essential.

It is important to note that specific individuals are at a higher risk if they contract the flu or pneumonia: children under five years old, people over 65, pregnant women, and those with chronic health problems are all at higher risk. Everyone, however, regardless of whether they’re at high risk or not, should make it a priority to get vaccinated. This helps individuals and the community as a whole. 

Prognosis: With prompt recognition and proper care, most patients do fully recover without any long-term consequences. However, visiting your doctor or getting medical care at home soon after experiencing symptoms is essential to prevent developing secondary respiratory issues.

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