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Pneumonia: Online Diagnosis and Treatment

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can range from mild to life-threatening. One person may have a productive cough and low-grade fever; another may be hospitalized on oxygen therapy with severe respiratory distress. They may both have the same infection.

Viruses, bacteria, or fungal infections can cause community-acquired pneumonia. About one-fourth of pneumonia is viral, and of these, one-third has a bacterial coinfection. In about half of pneumonia cases, the causative infection is not identified.1 How your body responds to an infection will influence its severity.

Community-acquired pneumonia (as opposed to hospital-acquired pneumonia) is a common condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pneumonia accounts for about 1.5 million emergency room visits and causes over 40,000 deaths in the U.S. yearly.

Scheduling a consultation with a virtual doctor on the Telegra MD telehealth platform for pneumonia diagnosis and treatment is simple and convenient. You will receive a diagnosis, a treatment protocol, and an appropriate online prescription to treat pneumonia. Telehealth for pneumonia treatment makes it easy to consult with a virtual doctor and receive prescription medication to treat your pneumonia quickly and easily, even if you don’t have insurance. Schedule an appointment today to learn whether you might have pneumonia and receive a personalized treatment plan to recover quickly.

What Is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung infection. It can affect a section of one lung, one lung, or both lungs. When infected, air sacs in the lung become inflamed and may fill with fluid, which makes it difficult to transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide from the air in your lungs to your bloodstream.

Air enters the nose and mouth and is conducted down the windpipe into the large tubes that enter the lungs called bronchi. The bronchi branch into smaller and smaller tubes called bronchioles. Each of the approximately 60,000 bronchioles ends in collections of air sacs called alveoli. Oxygen moves across one of the 480 million alveolar membranes in the lungs and into the bloodstream. Carbon dioxide moves in the opposite direction from the bloodstream into the alveoli, where it can be exhaled from the lungs.2

If the alveolar wall becomes thickened and inflamed, it becomes more difficult for gases to diffuse across the membrane. Oxygen levels may drop in the blood. In milder cases, oxygen therapy may be sufficient. In very severe cases, a ventilator is needed to take over some of the lung’s work.

A graphic of a doctor and lungs

What Are The Common Symptoms Of Pneumonia?

Common symptoms associated with pneumonia include:

  • Productive cough
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest heaviness
  • Sputum production
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Faster breathing rate
  • Muscle aches
  • Abdominal pain

Can Pneumonia Be Treated Through Telehealth?

Consulting a medical professional via telehealth is a convenient way to diagnose and treat mild community-acquired pneumonia. You can schedule an online medical consultation appointment with a virtual doctor using the Telegra MD platform and receive a personalized treatment plan. Your virtual doctor can give you tips on managing your symptoms and call your online prescription to a local pharmacy. Online doctors who prescribe pneumonia treatment medications provide 24-hour appointment access, which means you can expect doctor access whenever you need it, leading to an earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Why Do You Get Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lung. Respiratory viruses and bacteria are transmitted from person to person via droplet or aerosol spread. If the bacteria or virus replicates quickly enough, and the immune response and lung microbiome competition are insufficient to control viral or bacterial replication, an infection such as pneumonia may develop.

It can occur as a primary bacterial or fungal infection, or it can be a secondary bacterial infection once you have a viral upper respiratory illness. In about 50% of cases, the underlying cause of pneumonia is not identified. In the rest, the cause is usually bacterial or viral.

Bacterial causes of pneumonia3

  • Strep pneumoniae (the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia)
  • Haemophilus influenzae
  • Moraxella catarrhalis
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Group A streptococci
  • Aerobic gram-negative bacteria

Atypical bacteria that cause pneumonia3

  • Chlamydia pneumoniae
  • Chlamydia psittaci
  • Coxiella burnetii
  • Legionella pneumophila
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae

Respiratory viruses that cause pneumonia3

  • Adenovirus
  • Coronaviruses (SARS-CoV-2)
  • Influenza A and B viruses
  • Parainfluenza viruses
  • Respiratory syncytial virus
  • Rhinoviruses
  • Human metapneumovirus

Fungi that can cause pneumonia

  • Coccidioides
  • Histoplasma capsulatum
  • Cryptococcus

Are Some People at Increased Risk for Pneumonia?

Some people are at increased risk of pneumonia. Risk factors associated with community-acquired pneumonia include the following:

  • Adults over age 65
  • Infants and children under age 2
  • Having comorbid health conditions such as any that suppress the immune system, diabetes, chronic kidney, heart, or lung disease, sickle cell disease
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Having viral respiratory infections
  • Living and working in crowded conditions
  • Being hospitalized
  • Having difficulty swallowing or coughing
A chest x ray showing pneumonia

How Do You Diagnose Pneumonia?

A suspicion of pneumonia as a cause for your symptoms is based on the medical history and physical exam. To confirm this suspicion, your doctor may request a chest x-ray. Two views are obtained. They orient one image from back to front, and the others are lateral views.

Air on a chest radiograph looks darker or black. Bones, heart, and fluid in the alveoli look more white. A radiologist will look for abnormal fluid collections in the lung and compare these findings to your physical exam. Using this information, your doctor may diagnose you with pneumonia.

Other important tests used to diagnose the severity of pneumonia include:

  • Complete blood count: This test is used to help determine whether the cause of your pneumonia is more likely bacterial or viral
  • Blood culture: In this test, a sample of blood is put on culture media to see if a bacterium grows and then identify the type of bacteria
  • Pulse oximetry: This test measures the amount of oxygen in your blood to help determine whether enough oxygen is diffusing from the lung into the bloodstream
  • Procalcitonin: This protein is released by cells in response to toxins; procalcitonin levels increase in response to bacterial infections and decrease in response to viral infections4
  • Sputum gram stain and culture: A sample of mucus coughed up from the lungs is tested for bacteria

How Do You Treat Pneumonia?

Mild pneumonia is treated with outpatient care.

Treatment depends on whether the cause of your pneumonia is suspected to be viral or bacterial. In many cases, a broad-spectrum antibiotic is chosen until the cause is clearer.

Most viral cases of pneumonia get better on their own and do not require antiviral medications. Examples of antiviral medications that may be used to treat viral pneumonia include:  

  • Acyclovir
  • Ganciclovir
  • Oseltamivir
  • Peramivir
  • Ribavirin
  • Zanamivir

Beta-agonists may be used to treat spasms in the airway and reduce wheezing.

  • Albuterol

Antibiotics to treat bacterial causes of pneumonia outside of the hospital:5

  • Amoxicillin
  • Doxycycline
  • Azithromycin
  • Clarithromycin
  • Amoxicillin/clavulanate
  • Cefpodoxime
  • Cefuroxime
  • Levofloxacin
  • Moxifloxacin

If you have any of the following symptoms, evaluation, and treatment in an emergency room may be warranted.

  • Moderate-to-extreme shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • A bluish tinge to your lips, nails, or skin
  • Change in mental awareness or confusion
  • Severe wheezing
  • Dehydration
  • Coughing up blood

Pneumonia can become a very serious infection very quickly. If your symptoms worsen or change in any way, err on the side of seeking another medical evaluation, especially if you are over age 65 or have a chronic health condition that increases your risk of pneumonia. The earlier pneumonia is treated—the better.

Pneumococcal and influenza vaccines can help reduce your risk of pneumonia.

The word pneumonia and medications

When Should You See a Doctor for Pneumonia?

Telehealth for diagnosing and treating early community-acquired pneumonia is the perfect option. You can schedule an online appointment with a virtual doctor using the Telegra MD platform and receive a diagnosis of pneumonia and advice on what to watch for to gauge pneumonia severity. Your virtual doctor can give you tips on treating your symptoms and call in a prescription to a local pharmacy. Online doctors who treat respiratory infections such as pneumonia provide 24-hour appointment access, which means you can expect doctor access whenever you need it, leading to an earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Obtaining a pneumonia treatment plan after seeing a doctor online through telemedicine is similar to seeing your local doctor. In both cases, you would:

  • Make an appointment: Typically, appointments to see virtual doctors through telehealth are much easier to make and are more convenient than in-person appointments, as many telemedicine companies provide online telehealth services for pneumonia treatment at any time, day or night.
  • Provide a medical history: Whether completing forms in your local doctor’s office or online before consulting with your virtual doctor, you will need to provide a medical history.
  • Consult with your doctor: After reviewing your medical history forms, your virtual doctor will discuss your pneumonia treatment options.
  • Treatment: After deciding on an optimal and personalized treatment plan for pneumonia, your virtual doctor will transmit your prescriptions to your local pharmacy.

Disclaimer

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

References

1. Musher DM, Abers M, Bartlett JG. Pneumonia in adults, with special attention to the role of pneumococcus. Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 65, Issue 10, 15 November 2017, Pages 1736–1744, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/cix549

2. Sun X, Perl AK, Li R, Bell SM, Sajti E, Kalinichenko VV, Kalin TV, Misra RS, Deshmukh H, Clair G, Kyle J, Crotty Alexander LE, Masso-Silva JA, Kitzmiller JA, Wikenheiser-Brokamp KA, Deutsch G, Guo M, Du Y, Morley MP, Valdez MJ, Yu HV, Jin K, Bardes EE, Zepp JA, Neithamer T, Basil MC, Zacharias WJ, Verheyden J, Young R, Bandyopadhyay G, Lin S, Ansong C, Adkins J, Salomonis N, Aronow BJ, Xu Y, Pryhuber G, Whitsett J, Morrisey EE; NHLBI LungMAP Consortium. A census of the lung: CellCards from LungMAP. Dev Cell. 2022 Jan 10;57(1):112-145.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2021.11.007. Epub 2021 Dec 21. PMID: 34936882; PMCID: PMC9202574.

3. Ramirez M. Overview of community-acquired pneumonia in adults. UpToDate. 2023. Overview of community-acquired pneumonia in adults – UpToDate

4. Meisner M. Update on procalcitonin measurements. Ann Lab Med. 2014;34(4):263-73. doi:10.3343/alm.2014.34.4.263

5. Metlay JP, Waterer GW, Long AC, Anzueto A, Brozek J, Crothers K, Cooley LA, Dean NC, Fine MJ, Flanders SA, Griffin MR, Metersky ML, Musher DM, Restrepo MI, Whitney CG. Diagnosis and Treatment of Adults with Community-acquired Pneumonia. An Official Clinical Practice Guideline of the American Thoracic Society and Infectious Diseases Society of America. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2019 Oct 1;200(7):e45-e67. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201908-1581ST. PMID: 31573350; PMCID: PMC6812437.

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