ZocdocAnswersMy mom has had "pneumonia" for about 3 weeks now but has had a cough for longer. Is it serious?

Question

My mom has had "pneumonia" for about 3 weeks now but has had a cough for longer. Is it serious?

She is wheezing and coughing all the time. She complains that it hurts now to cough since it's been going on for so long. She has been on medication, but that didn't work so they gave her an inhaler, which doesn't seem to work at all either. Just last night she said she had a fever of 102, but now it's down again. I just want to know if she's going to be okay. I am an easily scared person, and I couldn't live without her. She's only 41 and doesn't smoke, has never had any health problems, no allergies that I can think of, and has never had the possibility of asthma until now. What is wrong with her? Is it really pneumonia? I had pneumonia twice when I was little, and I don't think it was ever this bad. Please just tell me she'll be okay...

Answer

I would suggest that you schedule an appointment with her primary care physician. In general, I think that likely your mother has either pneumonia or viral bronchitis. If it is pneumonia, it will not get better quickly without antibiotics. Symptoms of pneumonia include cough, fever, and sometimes chest pain. These symptoms usually start to subside within 2 to 3 days of starting the antibiotics. Sometimes the cough continues but it usually subsides fairly quickly. Pneumonia is diagnosed with a chest x-ray. Viral bronchitis is a less severe illness, but its symptoms can linger on for longer and can be the more annoying condition to have. Viral bronchitis can cause a low-grade fever but not a typical high fever with shaking chills that one sees with a bacterial pneumonia. What viral bronchitis does cause is significant wheezing and difficulty breathing along with a nagging cough they can go on for over a month. I would venture to guess that this is the likely cause of your mother's symptoms as pneumonia does not typically cause wheezing unless the patient already has the condition chronic bronchitis or asthma. In either case, your mothers case needs to be evaluated by a physician. Again, I would suggest that you schedule an appointment with her primary care physician. If she has not had a chest x-ray, she needs one. If the chest x-ray shows pneumonia and she should receive antibiotics. If it does not that she should receive an inhaler, and medications to help the cough. And the vast majority of cases in antibiotics are not needed for a viral bronchitis.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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