As Doris Day dies of pneumonia aged 97, what are the symptoms of the condition?

Doris Day has died from pneumonia at the age of 97. [Photo: Getty]
Doris Day has died from pneumonia at the age of 97. [Photo: Getty]

Doris Day has died of pneumonia today, 13 May, at the age of 97.

The legendary Hollywood actress was “in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia,” it was confirmed in a statement released by AP.

Pneumonia is an inflammation of one or both of the lung tissues, usually caused by a bacteria infection, according to the NHS website.

READ MORE: Doris Day dies at 97

The lungs contain breathing tubes filled with tiny air sacs, which in the case of pneumonia inflame and fill with fluid.

What causes pneumonia?

The cause of pneumonia is dependent on what type you have.

Commonly, it occurs due to a pneumococcal infection, caused by a bacteria known as the Streptococcus pneumoniae.

It can also be caused other types of bacteria – including Haemophilus influenzae and Staphylococcus aureus – and, in rarer cases, by viruses (viral pneumonia) or fungi (fungal pneumonia).

READ MORE: Man with constant runny nose given alarming diagnosis

Two other types include hospital-acquired pneumonia, which develops after being treated in hospital, and aspiration pneumonia, caused by breathing in a substance like vomit, smoke, a chemical or a peanut.

Who is at risk?

Certain groups are more likely to develop pneumonia, according to Dr Andrew Thornber, Chief Medical Officer at Now Patient.

These groups include:

  • Babies and very young children

  • Smokers

  • People with health conditions such as asthma and cystic fibrosis

  • People with a weakened immune system

  • The elderly

At-risk groups should considers getting a vaccine that protects against Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia

Symptoms of pneumonia

Pneumonia symptoms can either develop rapidly (over 24 to 48 hours) or come on more gradually, over several days, according to Dr. Thornber.

Symptoms may include:

  • A cough

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Fever

  • Sweating or shivering

  • Loss of appetite

  • Chest pain

  • Rapid heartbeat

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Less common symptoms include:

  • Wheezing

  • Nausea

  • Joint and muscle pain

  • Feeling confused

  • Tiredness

If you experience a combination of these symptoms, you should contact your GP.

If you are experiencing severe symptoms, which include rapid breathing, chest pain and confusion, you should seek urgent medical help.

Treating pneumonia

Treatment for pneumonia depends on whether you have a mild case of pneumonia or a more severe case, which in some cases can lead to severe complications such as pleurisy, a lung abscess, blood poisoning.

In extreme cases, this can lead to death.

“Mild pneumonia can usually be treated at home with rest and antibiotics,” says Dr Thornber.

However, people who have health issues are elderly or very young, can often develop complications and may need stronger treatment or hospitalisation.

If admitted to hospital, you would usually be offered blood and sputum (phlegm) test and then given antibiotics after diagnosis, he explains.

You may need to take the antibiotics for 7 to 10 days (although you may not need to stay in hospital for that long).

It can vary from person-to person with regards to full recovery, but can be between 3 weeks to 6 months.

Visit the British Lung Foundation website for more information about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for pneumonia.