It most certainly can be. Pneumonia (1) is a condition in which lung tissue becomes inflamed due to a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection and the alveoli (air sacs) fill with pus or fluid, making it difficult to breathe.
Sometimes, pneumonia is also caused by inhaling toxic fumes which damage the lungs.
The severity of pneumonia can range from mild to life-threatening, and the latter is especially true for those over 65. How severe it depends on what caused the inflammation, plus your age and overall health.
The more frail you are, the harder it will be to combat the illness, plus your chances of getting it again, often after a cold or flu, are higher.
In 2015, according to the World Health Organization, pneumonia accounted for 15% (about 922,000) of all deaths in children, globally.
The first line of treatment for pneumonia is a course of antibiotics, and the length of that treatment depends on the severity of the illness. Immunization, a healthy environment, and proper nutrition can all help prevent the onset of pneumonia.
How Long Is Pneumonia Contagious?
Is pneumonia contagious in adults? Just like colds and the flu, pneumonia can be contagious by spreading droplets of infectious liquid into the environment, e.g., through coughing or tactile transmission.
So, it’s a good idea to steer clear of people who have pneumonia; and if you’ve got pneumonia, then stay away from people and public places while you’re fighting it off.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when pneumonia becomes contagious, because it depends on what caused it, so it could be anywhere from two days to two weeks.
That’s not all that helpful when trying to determine how long to avoid people, but your doctor will be better able to gauge the length of time you would be contagious.
Also keep in mind that some pneumonias are more contagious than others, but again, your doctor can help you determine this.
Without numerous tests being done to determine what kind of pathogen caused the pneumonia in the first place, there’s no way to know. By the time you see the doctor, get diagnosed, and get test results back, you could be past the point of contagion.
Pneumonia is contagious in babies as it is in adults, but there is a preventative measure mothers can employ that will help: breastfeeding. Breastfeeding allows the mother to pass on antigens to her baby in breastmilk, and these will help fight off bacteria and viruses by inducing a positive immune response in the baby.
Babies usually get a milder form of pneumonia called “walking pneumonia.” We will explore this further, below.
How Long Is Pneumonia Contagious after Taking Antibiotics?
The contagious period for pneumonia depends on how soon you start treatment. You may still be contagious for about 24 to 48 hours after starting a course of antibiotics.
It’s important to complete the entire course of antibiotics with no days missed—if not, you might still have some pathogens lingering, which could start up the infection again and make you contagious again.
If, after a cold or flu, you notice that your symptoms haven’t disappeared or subsided in a week’s time, be sure to visit the doctor to be tested for pneumonia. Many people walk around with the illness without knowing it, and the best way to prevent spreading it to others is to start a treatment of antibiotics as soon as possible.
If you really want to play it safe for the sake of those around you, you could always act as though you’re contagious for up to two weeks afterward by refraining from contact, covering your nose and mouth if you sneeze, and washing your hands frequently.
It’s easy to overlook the symptoms of pneumonia, especially after a cold or flu. You might not know that something else has crept its way into your respiratory system, so it’s important to know what to look for. Signs of pneumonia include:
- Fever and chills;
- Shortness of breath;
- Muscle pain; and
- Pain in the chest when you breathe in or cough.
In some cases anemia, an ear infection, and a skin rash can develop.
It’s typical for these symptoms to appear about three days to a week after flu-like symptoms develop. If any of the above are accompanied by flu-like symptoms, see your doctor so that you can rule out pneumonia.
If it turns out that you do have pneumonia, it’s better to catch it earlier than later. Remember, pneumonia can land you in the hospital, so don’t delay in seeing your doctor.
In the meantime, it might help to make a homemade mint tea. Research has shown that mint might help fight off respiratory infections that could lead to pneumonia. And it’s simple to make. Buy some fresh mint leaves at your local grocery store; they should be available year-round.
When home, rinse the leaves and finely chop a good handful. Place them in a teapot and fill it with hot water. Allow it to steep for 20 minutes. Add sugar and/or milk as desired. Drink a few times a day. Please note that this tea is not a substitute for a doctor’s appointment and a potential course of antibiotics.
What Is Walking Pneumonia?
If you were to get any kind of pneumonia—not that anyone wants it to happen—then this would be the one to get because it’s a milder form and generally doesn’t require antibiotics or bed rest.
You can walk around with it and live life relatively normally, hence its name. This type of pneumonia often comes about due to a lung infection from the bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae. The contagious period is typically 10 days.
Walking pneumonia (2) is more common in military recruits, school-aged children, and those under 40. Highly congested, crowded environments, such as schools, prisons, barracks, and homeless shelters, are the prime locations in which this illness can spread. It’s most commonly seen in summer and fall.
Symptoms typically appear 15 to 25 days after being infected, and then develop in the body over two to four days. Symptoms of walking pneumonia include:
- A violent cough that may cause spasms but produces very little mucus;
- Fever and chills;
- Sore throat;
- Headache; and
The doctor will do a chest examination and listen to you breathe. If they feel there may be a chance of pneumonia, walking or other, tests will be ordered, including blood tests and X-rays.
When Should You See a Doctor?
You want to see the doctor as soon as you suspect something more is going on after a flu or cold. If symptoms aren’t fading and others are lingering and cropping up after a week, see your doctor right away.
Getting diagnosed and treated will help you recover and prevent spreading the illness any further to those around you—pneumonia is contagious, after all.