COVID-19 is colliding with flu and pneumonia season. All three are dangerous respiratory illnesses, especially for sensitive populations such as individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and asthma. If you have chest pain or are struggling to breathe, immediately seek emergency care. Otherwise, depending on your symptoms’ severity, if you believe that you have pneumonia or COVID-19, you should make an appointment with your primary care provider. They can determine if you are at adverse risk and what treatment plan you should follow to expedite recovery with minimal risk of serious complications.
What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a recently discovered coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Most diagnosed individuals with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate respiratory illness. In contrast, seniors and individuals with underlying conditions such as chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer are at a higher risk of severe complications or death. Symptoms of COVID-19 may include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Nausea or vomiting
What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a lung infection in which the tiny air sacs inside the lungs become inflamed with fluid and pus, making it hard to breathe. Other symptoms may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
For some individuals, their pneumonia becomes so severe that they must be hospitalized and given oxygen or put on a ventilator to help support their respiratory functions.
Pneumonia as a Complication of COVID-19
While both COVID-19 and pneumonia are both respiratory illnesses, and both cause many of the same symptoms, they are even more closely related. Some people with COVID-19 or the flu develop pneumonia due to the viral infection that causes these infections. Many times with COVID-19 patients, the pneumonia forms in both lungs, putting the patient at severe risk of respiratory complications. However, you can develop pneumonia due to bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms, even if you don’t have COVID-19 or the flu.
Is it Pneumonia or COVID-19?
If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, and a persistent cough and believe that you might have COVID-19 or pneumonia, your doctor will be most likely to determine the cause of your symptoms, and they may need an x-ray or CT scan to do so. Upon imaging a patient’s lungs, a doctor can determine if a patient is suffering from bacterial pneumonia or a viral infection such as COVID-19.
What Happens if You Have COVID-19 and Pneumonia?
Eighty percent of coronavirus patients experience only mild symptoms. When a COVID-19 case becomes exacerbated, however, or an individual has a weakened immune system due to an existing or chronic health condition, they may be at risk of developing pneumonia. If you develop pneumonia in addition to COVID-19, your doctor may attempt to treat your conditions with antibiotics, antiviral steroids, and extensive respiratory support.
While most people who recover from pneumonia do not experience any lasting lung damage, experts are finding that this might not be the case with patients with COVID-19 pneumonia, as they may experience difficulty breathing for months.
What to Do if You have COVID-19 or Pneumonia Symptoms
Minimize your chances of contracting COVID-19 or pneumonia this season. Maintain social distance, wash your hands regularly, and avoid touching your face. If you do experience symptoms, talk to your doctor. At Nova Health, we offer both telemedicine and in-person appointments, with walk-ins and same-day appointments available at many of our urgent care centers. Your doctor will diagnose the cause of your symptoms and help you create a treatment plan for improvement.