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What Having Pneumonia Really Means

Facts to know about Clinton’s illness

What Having Pneumonia Really Means

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Pneumonia can be more dangerous in those over 65.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is suffering from pneumonia, her physician announced, after the candidate became ill during a weekend event in New York commemorating the Sept. 11 attacks.

Clinton had been diagnosed with pneumonia two days earlier, put on antibiotics and advised to rest, but she became “overheated and dehydrated” at the event, said her physician, Lisa Bardack.

Pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, is a common disease, affecting about two million Americans annually, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“If you go around to the people you work with, you’ll have a hard time finding someone who hasn’t had it in the last 10 years. Almost everybody has it several times through their life,” Frank Esper, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, told

Pneumonia tends to be more dangerous in those over 65 (Clinton is 68), which is why it’s recommended that older adults get two pneumonia vaccines. The CDC now recommends that all adults age 65 or older get the traditional PCV13 vaccine first, followed by a dose of the newer PPSV23, at least one year later.

Here’s what you need to know about pneumonia:

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection in one or both of the lungs that causes the tiny air sacs in the lungs to fill with mucus, causing coughing and making it hard to breathe, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Is pneumonia contagious?

It depends on the type you have. In general, viral pneumonia is more contagious than bacterial.

What is “walking pneumonia”?

This is a nonmedical term for a mild form of pneumonia that doesn’t require you to be hospitalized or confined to your bed, according to the Mayo Clinic. In other words, you can still walk around and assume some of your regular routine, despite being ill. Some experts think this is what Clinton has, although her doctor did not reveal the type or severity of the candidate’s illness.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms can vary from mild to severe, but in general you should see your doctor if you have fever, chills, a persistent cough that doesn’t improve or gets worse, and shortness of breath. Other signs: chest pain when breathing or coughing, nausea, loss of appetite and fatigue. Viral pneumonia symptoms are similar, but are also more flulike and can include muscle pain, fatigue and headache.

How is pneumonia treated?

Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics, says the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and patients usually start to feel better and their symptoms begin to lessen after one to three days.

Antibiotics don’t work for viral pneumonia. Doctors may prescribe an antiviral medication. Viral pneumonia usually improves in one to three weeks.

Depending on your age, fatigue from pneumonia can last for a month or more. A healthy young person may feel back to normal within a week of recovery from pneumonia, but it can take older people weeks before they regain their usual strength, according to the American Lung Association. Adequate rest is important to avoid a relapse, the group says.