Pneumonia and Sepsis: Symptoms & Recovery

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  • 0:03 Definition of Pneumonia
  • 0:55 Definition of Sepsis
  • 1:38 Symptoms of Pneumonia & Sepsis
  • 3:25 Recovery from…
  • 5:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alexandra Unfried

Alexandra earned her master's degree in nursing education and is currently a hospital supervisor/administrator.

Pneumonia is a well known illness that affects millions of people of all ages. Sepsis is an illness that is not as well known, but is being discussed more frequently. This lesson will explain what the symptoms and recovery are for both pneumonia and sepsis.

Definition of Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection that occurs in the lungs. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, a virus, or fungi. One or both of the lungs become compromised as the air sacs in the lungs become inflamed. Fluid or pus may fill the air sacs causing a cough, phlegm, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. While pneumonia can affect anyone, infants, children, and the elderly are most at risk for complications from pneumonia. There is a vaccine available which reduces the risks of becoming infected. However, treatment for pneumonia depends on the type of organism that caused the infection. Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics and fungal pneumonia is treated with anti-fungal medication. Viral pneumonia cannot be treated with medication, but instead is treated with rest and fluids as the body fights off the virus.

Definition of Sepsis

Sepsis is sometimes called blood poisoning and is a result of the body's response to an infection or injury. One common cause of sepsis is pneumonia. Other sources of sepsis include influenza, urinary tract infections, an abdominal infection, a kidney infection, and bloodstream infections (bacteremia). Sepsis is a complication that occurs after the body is infected with germs and can lead to organ and tissue damage, and even death. Many doctors view sepsis as a three-stage syndrome, starting with sepsis and progressing through severe sepsis to septic shock. The goal is to treat sepsis during its early stage, before it becomes more dangerous.

Symptoms of Pneumonia & Sepsis

The different types of pneumonia (bacterial, viral, and fungal if you recall) all present with the same symptoms. These symptoms include chest pain when breathing and coughing, confusion or an acute change in mental status (in adults 65 and older), cough (productive or non-productive), tiredness, fever, sweating, chills, reduced or increased body temperature, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and shortness of breath. These symptoms are similar to what would be seen with a cold or the flu. The differentiating factor is that the symptoms last longer with pneumonia.

Early symptoms of sepsis are vague and give you a general feeling of not feeling well. Symptoms include fever, feeling faint, weakness, confusion, increased heart rate, and breathing faster. As sepsis progresses and starts to affect your organs, symptoms become more severe, such as difficulty breathing, diarrhea, nausea, and not being able to think straight. Sepsis is diagnosed when there is a confirmed infection along with at least two of the following three symptoms: temperature above 101 F (38.3 C) or below 96.8 F (36 C), a heart rate greater than 90 beats per minute, and a breathing rate higher than 20 breaths per minute.

Severe sepsis is diagnosed when there is indication of organ failure. Organ failure presents as decreased urine output, an acute change in mental status, decreased platelet count, difficulty breathing, an abnormal heart beat, or abdominal pain. Septic shock is diagnosed when there are symptoms of severe sepsis along with an extremely low blood pressure that is not improved with fluid replacement.

Recovery from Pneumonia & Sepsis

If medication is required to treat pneumonia (viral or fungal), symptoms should start to improve in several days. Viral pneumonia recovery will vary with each person based on how they treat their body with rest and fluids. All recovery is also based on the age and health history of the person. Pneumonia affects infants, children, and the elderly more severely than middle-aged adults. Those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, a smoking habit, or a weakened immune system will also take longer to recover.

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