In autumn and winter, vulnerable people such as the elderly or those who have had previous respiratory difficulties may be susceptible to pneumonia. Whilst many cases of pneumonia are mild and can be treated by a course of antibiotics, unfortunately the illness can also be life-threatening. Therefore it is vital that patients and the family members of those who are susceptible are aware of its symptoms so they can gain access to treatment quickly. This is particularly important over the Christmas period when many GP surgeries and medical centres will be closed.
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is the swelling of tissue in one or both of your lungs. It is typically caused by a pneumococcal infection by streptococcus pneumoniae, although there are also other types of virus or bacteria that can cause the illness.
How to spot the symptoms of pneumonia
If you’re concerned that you or a family member or friend might be exhibiting some of the signs of pneumonia, consult this checklist of common symptoms to look out for.
- A dry cough or one which produces a thick phlegm which is yellow, green, brown or streaked with blood.
- Breathing difficulties – you might feel out of breath even when you’re resting. Your breathing might also be shallow and fast.
- A racing heartbeat.
- A fever – typically in adults a fever is characterised as being a temperature over 100°F or 37.8° C when taken with an oral thermometer.
- Sweating and/or shivering.
- Loss of appetite.
- Chest pain which increases with breathing or coughing.
There are also some less common symptoms that you may need to be aware of to mention to your doctor.
- Coughing up blood
- Nausea and vomiting
- General fatigue
- Joint and muscle pain
- Confusion and disorientation
As many of these symptoms are also typical of the common cold or flu, it is impossible to self-assess whether or not you have pneumonia. The best course of action is to visit your GP who will conduct an examination and may refer you for a chest x-ray.
If your symptoms are severe and you are experiencing strong chest pain, rapid breathing or confusion then you must seek urgent medical attention by calling 999 for an ambulance.
How to see an ‘Out Of Hours’ doctor
If you are unable to wait for an appointment to see your GP, for instance if it’s the weekend, the middle of the night or a Christmas bank holiday, then there are several ways to get advice about your symptoms outside of normal hours.
You should begin by calling 111 which is the NHS’s non-emergency number. Operators will assess your symptoms and take your contact details. They will then refer you to the best healthcare providers that will be able to assist with your condition. You may get a call back from an out-of-hours doctor, or you may be directed to an Accident and Emergency department (A&E), a Primary Care Centre or a Walk-In Centre. It is important to note that to visit a Primary Care Centre you will need to have had an appointment made for you when you call 111. You will normally have been given a time slot to attend the Primary Care Centre and patients will generally be seen in their order of arrival within that slot.
Here is a list of medical centres in the East Berkshire area that you may be directed to in an out-of-hours scenario.
Urgent Care Centre
Primary Care Centres
If you’re at all worried and you suspect pneumonia in yourself or someone else this winter, then don’t hesitate to get it checked out.