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Symptoms and diagnosis of pneumonia

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Cher shot to fame in the 1960s, as one-half of the folk rock duo Sonny and Cher, whom she starred in with her husband Sonny Bono. The pair enjoyed success together, which Cher continued as a solo artist, releasing memorable hits such as The Shoop Shoop Song and If I could Turn Back Time. However, it was in the late 1980s that the star reportedly contracted Epstein-Barr virus – a common infection spread through bodily fluids. From there, the Hollywood star’s health deteriorated even further as she developed chronic fatigue syndrome and pneumonia.

Although the star has rarely spoken about her chronic fatigue syndrome, it has been reported that she became too exhausted to continue with her music or film career, stopping for almost two years to recover.

In a 2008 interview with USA today, Cher was reported saying: “I was sick for a long time. I went to Germany for some medicine and treatment.

“They have things overseas we never dreamed existed. When I was first diagnosed in the late 80s, lamictal combined with I had doctors telling me I was crazy. I was sick constantly and almost died from pneumonia. You never lose it, and it really takes the life out of you.”

More recently, the star has opened up about her near fatal experience with pneumonia on social media. Firstly in 2016, the star revealed that when she first caught the infection, she didn’t even know it.

In response to one fan she wrote: “I had pneumonia and know it is f** rough.

“I had pneumonia and didn’t know it! Was Working and thought I had bronchitis. The doctor gave me two different antibiotics, but I needed a certain one.”

The Mayo Clinic explains that pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. These air sacs fill up with fluid and pus, which causes a severe cough.

Symptoms are similar to some other conditions, such as bronchitis, that Cher noted. But as pneumonia can become life-threatening, it is crucial individuals get treatment.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the type of germ causing the infection, but key signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Chest pain when you breathe or cough
  • Confusion or changes in mental awareness (in adults age 65 and older)
  • Cough, which may produce phlegm
  • Fatigue
  • Fever, sweating and shaking chills
  • Lower than normal body temperature (in adults older than age 65 and people with weak immune systems)
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Shortness of breath.

In a more recent tweet, Cher confessed that when infected, she struggled to even breathe. Again in response to a fan, she said: “I had pneumonia… and I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stand to take a shower.”

The star also went on to say that it was “not long ago” that she suffered with pneumonia, causing a frenzy amongst her 3.2 million followers, who were concerned for the star’s health.

Those most at risk of pneumonia include the oldest and youngest in society, especially those who are currently in hospital, already suffer from a chronic condition, those who smoke, and those with a weakened immune system.

The NHS recommends seeking medical help if you or someone you know starts to have a high temperature and develops a new and continuous cough. However, in the current climate, symptoms could also be an indicator of Covid.

In this situation it is best to contact 111 or visit the online coronavirus service, as well as using lateral flow tests in order to determine whether the individual has pneumonia or Covid.

If individuals display any of the following more complex symptoms, call 999 straight away:

  • Struggling to breathe
  • Coughing up blood
  • Blue lips or a blue face
  • Feel cold and sweaty, with pale or blotchy skin
  • A rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it
  • Collapse or faint
  • Become confused or very drowsy
  • Have stopped peeing or are peeing much less than usual.

Treatment for pneumonia often involves curing the infection and preventing complications. The most common treatments involve antibiotics, cough medicine and fever reducers and pain relievers. Individuals should also get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids whilst recovering.

The good news is that most symptoms will ease in a few days or weeks, but the feeling of tiredness can persist for several months.

The NHS provides a rough guide on the recovery process, and the improvements individuals should see week on week:

  • One week – high temperature should have gone
  • Four weeks – chest pain and mucus production should have substantially reduced
  • Six weeks – cough and breathlessness should have substantially reduced
  • Three months – most symptoms should have resolved, but you may still feel very tired (fatigue)
  • Six months – most people will feel back to normal.

It is important to note that cough medicines are not generally recommended as there is little evidence to suggest that they are effective. However, a warm drink of honey and lemon is a natural remedy that can help relieve discomfort caused by coughing.

Once your course of antibiotics is finished, doctors will normally arrange a follow-up appointment in order to check that symptoms have improved. Individuals may then be advised to have an annual flu vaccination in order to maximise your protection against catching pneumonia again.

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