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Has My COVID Turned into Pneumonia?

By Ian Klaes

Still feeling run down after from COVID-19? Have you gotten new symptoms? If your COVID symptoms have remained longer than anticipated or even gotten worse, you may have developed COVID pneumonia. But how can you know if your COVID has turned into pneumonia or if you’re experiencing allergies, the flu, or a cold? Let’s explore the common symptoms of these illnesses and the differences to look for.  

COVID and COVID Pneumonia 

COVID Symptoms 

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that's caused by SARS-CoV-2. Individuals with the virus may exhibit severe symptoms or they may be asymptomatic, making this virus difficult to diagnose on your own. Luckily, doctor’s offices perform COVID tests and pharmacies even offer take-home tests, so you can quickly determine if you have the virus. 

Some common symptoms to look for in COVID include: 

  • Fever 
  • Cough (dry) 
  • Body aches 
  • Headache 
  • Fatigue 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • New loss of taste or smell 
  • Sore throat 
  • Congestion or runny nose 

Many of these symptoms are also characteristic of a cold, the flu, pneumonia, and even allergies. However, there is one symptom that could indicate that you have COVID over another illness: new loss of taste or smell. As many as 67% of individuals with COVID-19 experience loss of smell.  

If you exhibit any of these symptoms, it’s best to be safe and get a COVID test to determine if you have the virus.  

COVID Pneumonia Symptoms 

COVID pneumonia is a type of pneumonia that occurs in individuals as a result of COVID-19. Typically, this pneumonia only affects those who experienced severe COVID symptoms, which is about 15% of total cases. COVID pneumonia is most common in seniors, especially seniors over 85. 

Like traditional pneumonia, this type of pneumonia causes inflammation in the lungs. As a result, the air sacs within the lungs fill with pus, making it difficult for the body to get enough oxygen with each breath. Unlike traditional pneumonia, COVID pneumonia affects both lungs and tends to be more severe than traditional pneumonia. 

To learn more about identifying traditional pneumonia, refer to our guide: Identifying and Treating Seniors with Pneumonia.

Individuals with COVID pneumonia may experience the following symptoms in addition to their COVID-19 symptoms: 

  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Quick breathing 
  • Dizziness 
  • Heavy sweating 
  • Shortness of breath 

If you have or recently had COVID and experience these symptoms, see a doctor right away. COVID pneumonia may cause long-term lung damage, so it’s important to get it diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. COVID pneumonia can be diagnosed by a doctor based on your symptoms, blood tests, or even CT scans.  

Has My COVID Turned into Pneumonia? 

So, to answer the question “Has my COVID turned into pneumonia?”, here’s a quick checklist you can follow. If the majority of the items below apply to you, then you have likely developed pneumonia as a result of your COVID.  

  • Age 65+  
  • Experienced severe COVID symptoms (perhaps you were hospitalized) 
  • Have some COVID symptoms AND some pneumonia symptoms 

Is It Something Else? 

If you don’t have COVID pneumonia but are feeling under the weather, you could be suffering from something else. Most COVID symptoms clear up between 2 and 4 weeks. But if you are still under the weather after that time frame, you could have a cold, the flu, allergies, or another illness. Let’s dive into some of the common symptoms of the cold, flu, and allergies.  

Cold Symptoms  

We’ve all had a cold before. While unpleasant, a cold is usually a minor infection and isn’t dangerous or life-threatening. Symptoms of the common cold include: 

  • Sneezing 
  • Cough (wet) 
  • Sore throat 
  • Congestion or runny nose 

While these symptoms overlap with those of COVID-19, you will notice that there are several symptoms missing. With the common cold, it’s rare to get a fever, experience exhaustion, have shortness of breath, or get diarrhea. Additionally, you will show symptoms of a cold within 1 to 3 days of exposure.  Symptoms of COVID may not manifest until up to 2 weeks after exposure.  

If you do have a common cold, you should recover within a week without requiring medical attention.  

Flu Symptoms 

The flu can also exhibit symptoms similar to COVID-19 and the common cold. This infection, however, is a more serious respiratory illness than a cold, and it can even be fatal. Common flu symptoms include the following: 

  • High fever 
  • Headache 
  • Fatigue 
  • Body aches 
  • Sore throat 
  • Cough 
  • Congestion or runny nose 

Almost 70% of flu cases result in a fever, making this symptom a key indicator of the flu. Additionally, exhaustion will usually manifest itself as one of the first symptoms of the flu, while it may come on later with COVID. Individuals with the flu are also more likely to experience a severe headache than those with COVID. Like the common cold, the incubation period of the flu is 1 to 3 days after exposure.  

If you suspect that you have the flu, your doctor can perform a flu test to confirm the diagnosis.  

Allergy Symptoms 

Allergies are the body’s reaction to foreign substances — like pollen, pet dander, etc. The body tries to fight the foreign substance and get it out. As the immune system works hard, you may notice the following symptoms: 

  • Congestion or runny nose 
  • Sneezing 
  • Cough 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Headache 

Allergies do not result in a fever or body aches, so if you experience those symptoms, you can rule out allergies and look to one of the illnesses previously mentioned. You most likely won’t have a sore throat either. Allergies also appear right after you are exposed to the foreign substance and can last as long as you are exposed.  

Conclusion 

So, your COVID may turn into pneumonia if you had severe COVID symptoms and you develop new symptoms, including low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, quick breathing, etc. However, COVID pneumonia is not common among moderate and mild cases of COVID. If you still feel under the weather after a mild or moderate case, you may have a cold, the flu, or allergies.  

It’s important to carefully assess your symptoms and visit with your doctor to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and to get the right treatment plan.  

If you or a senior loved one has COVID pneumonia, we are here to help. Our caregivers are specially trained in infection control and pneumonia to ensure that each senior gets the care they need while preventing the spread of COVID. We can help coordinate care with other healthcare professionals, perform errands, help around the house, and ensure that seniors remain healthy and safe at home. Reach out to us today to learn more! 

Pneumonia in Seniors Guide Cover

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Tags: Pneumonia