Double pneumonia is a both-lung infection. A virus, bacteria or fungus causes the tiny lung sacs, called alveoli, to become inflamed and fill with fluid or pus, causing a variety of symptoms, including trouble breathing.
Doctors also refer to a bilateral pneumonia as double pneumonia. Pneumonia is the leading cause of infectious mortality in children under 5 years old worldwide.
Important facts about double pneumonia:
- Double pneumonia affects both lungs; pneumonia affects a single lung.
- It is a serious infection that can be fatal.
- The symptoms of double pneumonia are not distinct from pneumonia.
- People who think they have pneumonia should contact a doctor immediately.
What is double pneumonia?
The disease is called double pneumonia, as both lungs are affected. Dual pneumonia is typically caused by a bacterial or viral infection, similar to pneumonia.
People with flu (influenza virus infection), some forms of streptococcal bacterial infections, respiratory syncytial virus ( RSV), and some other infections can develop double pneumonia;
Since double pneumonia affects both lungs, it can be extremely difficult for a person to breathe.
It is difficult to tell whether a person has pneumonia or double pneumonia based solely on symptoms. Anyone who feels they might have pneumonia needs to see a doctor as quickly as possible.
Pneumonia sometimes occurs after another respiratory illness, or alongside it. Many people often get pneumonia after being exposed to breathing in the dust or other gasses, or after having fluid in their lungs. Such conditions make it possible for a germ to get into and invade a person’s body.
People who have these risk factors should check for pneumonic symptoms. These symptoms include:
- A high fever, chills, or shaking. Rarely, some people develop an unusually low temperature.
- A cough that gets worse.
- Coughing up thick mucus or phlegm.
- Shortness of breath during activities that do not typically induce shortness of breath.
- Chest pain when coughing or breathing.
- Feeling very sick after an acute viral illness, such as the flu or another type of respiratory infection.
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, along with respiratory symptoms.
As pneumonia progresses, it may cause serious complications — especially in people with compromised immune systems due to age, illness, or chronic diseases like HIV or AIDS.
Complications of pneumonia include:
- Sepsis, an infection that causes systemic inflammation in the body. It is a serious illness that can be fatal.
- Lung abscesses.
- Pleural effusions. The pleurae are two membranes that line the outside of the lungs within the chest cavity. Usually, a small amount of pleural fluid fills the gap between the membranes, but pneumonia may cause an accumulation of this fluid. If there is a buildup of fluid, or it becomes infected, a pleural effusion can cause death.
- Pleurisy. This can occur with pneumonia and happens when the pleural layers become inflamed and rub together. Pleurisy causes pain in the chest when a person takes a deep breathe or coughs.
- Kidney failure or respiratory failure.
What causes double pneumonia?
The most common cause of pneumonia are viral or bacterial infections that get within the lungs. People can develop pneumonia less frequently from inhaling such fungi.
Dual pneumonia occurs when a microbe infects both lungs and causes pneumonia. Possible causes of pneumonia and double pneumonia include:
- Bacteria: Bacterial pneumonia is the most common cause of pneumonia in adults. The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in adults in the United States is Streptococcus pneumonia.
- Virus: The influenza virus is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in adults. RSV is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in very young children. Viral pneumonia increases a person’s risk of having a secondary bacterial pneumonia.
- Fungus: This is a less common cause of pneumonia. Someone with a compromised immune system is typically at a higher risk for fungal pneumonia compared to someone with healthy immune system function.
Some people are more vulnerable to pneumonia. Risk factors for double pneumonia include:
- Being over the age of 65.
- Being very young.
- Smoking tobacco.
- Having a lung disease, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or cystic fibrosis.
- Having a chronic illness, such as congestive heart failure.
- Having a weak immune system due to illnesses such as HIV, AIDS, and autoimmune disease.
- Taking drugs that suppress the immune system.
- Having difficulties swallowing.
- Recently having a viral infection that affected the upper respiratory tract.
When to seek treatment
Double pneumonia is a dangerous infection that can have life-threatening consequences. Yet it’s treatable, too. Therefore it is important to seek care early before the infection is formed.
Someone with breathing problems and high fever will treat it as a medical emergency.
Those with pneumonic risk factors, such as those with another severe chronic condition, should seek prompt medical attention if they experience pneumonic symptoms.
A doctor will diagnose pneumonia with the aid of an X-ray in the chest, blood tests and a physical examination.
Double pneumonia diagnosis depends on what caused it, and how it has affected the body:
- People who have bacterial pneumonia will need antibiotic therapy.
- People with severe infections related to pneumonia, such as infectious pleural effusion or sepsis, will need intravenous antimicrobial therapy. Other types of treatment may also be required.
- People with viral pneumonia will not respond to antibiotics, which do not work to treat viral infection.
Many pneumonia therapies concentrate on preventing more lung damage and ensuring a person can breathe. Some people in a hospital setting may need supplemental oxygen or monitoring. This can also help to relax and stay hydrated.
Coughing may be painful but coughing helps the body get rid of the infection itself.
Patients with double pneumonia should not take a cough suppressant drug until advised to do so by a doctor.
Recovery and outlook
Most healthy people recuperate from pneumonia with prompt treatment. However, if a person rushes out the care and recovery process, pneumonia can not resolve fully.
Take all medications as prescribed and stop any work or physically demanding activities as long as the doctor suggests.
People with poor immune systems or other health conditions are more likely to develop a form of pneumonia that is more difficult to clear, recur or causes severe complications and death.
Many people experience double pneumonia as a result of being immunocompromised seriously.
Telling a doctor about all health issues is important, and being frank about lifestyle decisions, including smoking tobacco.
Persons who are very sick can need to be taken to hospital.
If the symptoms of pneumonia deteriorate, fever rises or a person finds it difficult to breathe, they should call a doctor or go to the emergency room.
The microbes entering the respiratory tract can cause pneumonia in some individuals but not in others. This depends on each person’s particular risk factors, as well as the form of germ present.
Certain pneumonia-prevention approaches include:
- Avoiding people who have respiratory infections: This is particularly true for people who are at higher risk of developing pneumonia.
- Avoiding places where sick, infected people may be, particularly during cold and flu season: People should not go to the hospital unless absolutely necessary. Those with weak immune systems may also want to avoid enclosed, poorly ventilated places, such as airplanes.
- Managing chronic medical conditions, such as emphysema or congestive heart failure: Follow the doctor’s instructions on keeping chronic diseases under control.
- Practicing regular handwashing: Regularly washing and rubbing hands together using warm soap and water will help lower the risk of contracting germs.
- Getting vaccinated for pneumococcal pneumonia: Older people and other specific populations are at a higher risk than average of developing this form of bacterial pneumonia.
- Getting a flu shot: This may help prevent viral pneumonia due to the influenza virus.
Double pneumonia is far worse than a bad cold. It is a serious and potentially fatal condition which needs urgent medical attention. Recovery is possible with the correct medical treatment.
Those who have a poor immune system or other pneumonia risk factors should explore options with their doctor to reduce their risk of contracting it in future.