Pneumonia: 6 'severe' symptoms that could prove life threatening – are you at risk?

Your symptoms can vary depending on what’s causing your pneumonia, your age, and your overall health, but there are some common signs to look out for.

Common symptoms of pneumonia include a cough, a high temperature and chest pain.

In more severe cases there are six key symptoms to look out for, according to the British Lung Foundation.

These include quick breathing, confusion, low blood pressure, coughing up blood, rapid heartbeat, as well as nausea and vomiting.

“Some people get a sharp pain in their chest when they breathe in and out. This may be because the thin lining between the lung and rib cage, called the pleura, is infected and inflamed. This inflammation, called pleurisy, stops your lungs moving smoothly as you breathe,” the charity’s site adds.

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Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. In 2020, more than 13,000 people died from pneumonia in the UK, according to the office for national statistics.

“It is most serious for infants and young children, people older than age 65, and people with health problems or weakened immune systems,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

It adds that for some older adults and people with heart failure or chronic lung problems, “pneumonia can quickly become a life-threatening condition”.

It’s especially important that people in high-risk groups see a doctor.


Feeling confused and disorientated can also be an indicator, and is particularly common in elderly people.

Each year in the UK, about five to 11 adults out of every 1,000 get pneumonia.

The British Lung Foundation notes that some of the symptoms of pneumonia are often very similar to those of other chest infections, such as bronchitis, which is why it is important to seek the advice of a health professional.

If you have a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, it could be COVID-19.

Pneumonia is usually the result of a bacterial infection, but there are other forms, alongside bacterial pneumonia.

These include viral pneumonia, caused by a virus, such as coronavirus, and aspiration pneumonia.

Aspiration pneumonia is caused by breathing in vomit or a harmful substance.

Fungal pneumonia is rare in the UK, and more likely to affect people with a weakened immune system.

The symptoms of pneumonia can develop suddenly over 24 to 48 hours, or they may come on more slowly over several days.

The NHS also states that a rapid heartbeat, sweating and shivering and loss of appetite could also be symptoms.

If you think you have symptoms speak to a GP. The NHS states that you should call 999 for an ambulance if you or someone you care for has symptoms such as struggling to breathe, coughing up blood, has blue lips or a blue face, or they feel cold and sweaty.

Also call an ambulance if they have pale or blotchy skin, a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it, the person collapses or faints, becomes confused or very drowsy or has stopped peeing or is peeing much less than usual.


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