Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
What is a bilateral pneumonia?
It is a pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs) affecting both lungs. A bilateral pneumonia is also called double pneumonia.
It is a serious condition that warrant immediate medical attention. If left untreated could lead to death. It affects people of all ages, but the prevalence is more common in the elderly population. (10)
Image 1: An x-ray of the lungs infected with bilateral pneumonia.
Picture source: img.medscapestatic.com
Photo 2: A close up view of the lungs of the patient with acute bilateral pneumonia caused by Legionnaire’s disease.
Image Source: ww2.hdnux.com
Image 3: Pneumonia and the disease-causing factors.
Picture Source: image.slidesharecdn.com
Bilateral Pneumonia Causes
- Bacteria – Usually, bacteria affect only a part of one lung. However, some families of bacteria can affect both lungs such as the Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus.
- Viral – Pneumonia of viral cause can affect both lungs.
- Legionnaires’ disease – It is atypical pneumonia caused by bacterium legionella. A severe type of this disease can affect both lungs. (1, 2)
- Other causes – A bilateral pneumonia could also be a result of other types of pneumonia such as mycoplasma pneumonia, aspiration pneumonia, and septic pneumonia. (2)
Bilateral Pneumonia Symptoms
- High grade fever and chills
- Aching throat and tarnished sputum (greenish phlegm)
- Difficulty breathing and heart problem
- Lack of energy (3)
- Chest tightness which is triggered by coughing
- Muscle tissue pain
- Profuse sweating
- Increased pulse rate
- Nausea with or without vomiting
- Diarrhea (4)
- Bluish discoloration of the lips and fingers secondary to lack of oxygen in the blood
To correctly diagnose bilateral pneumonia, the doctor will order laboratory testing so as to check the sputum for any signs of infection. An imaging study such as chest x-ray will also be ordered to check white patches on the lungs. The result of the laboratory test and presence of white patches on x-ray images confirm the diagnosis of bilateral pneumonia. (5, 6)
How serious is it?
Bilateral pneumonia is a severe type of pneumonia. Bilateral pneumonia mortality rate is high. It is more serious than unilateral pneumonia. Is double pneumonia deadly? Yes. It increases the possibility of sepsis, which puts the patient in greater risk.
Is pneumonia contagious? Fortunately, pneumonia is not a contagious disease. However, the microbes that cause it are contagious. If you contact the microbes from a person with pneumonia, you will most likely suffer flu-like symptoms. If you have a weak immune system, you will suffer from pneumonia. (7, 8)
Bilateral Pneumonia Treatment
What are the treatment options for bilateral pneumonia? How is severe bilateral pneumonia treated? Below are the recommended treatment and management for people with bilateral pneumonia. (8)
The treatment is focused on the symptomatic relief of the disease. The signs and symptoms should be thoroughly considered and will come up with the best possible remedy so as to improve the condition of the patient. (9)
Dealing with the root cause of the problem
The root cause of the problem should be treated because that is the only way to completely get rid of the disease. If the cause is viral, then certainly no medications could help. The best remedy is for the patient to get plenty sleep and rest. Hydration is important too.
The patient should increase the intake of fluids, especially water and fruit juices. If the bilateral pneumonia is caused by bacteria, the patient will be put on antibiotic therapy. Of course, the type of bacteria should be determined through culture and sensitivity.
If the patient is put on antibiotic but show no signs of improvement, then another form of antibiotic should be used. The key to successful antibiotic therapy is to determine the strain of bacteria that cause bilateral pneumonia. There are instances when fungus can cause bilateral pneumonia. If this is the case, the patient is put on antifungal drugs. (2, 5, 7)
Systematic treatment approach
Other clinical manifestations should be addressed so as to improve the overall condition of the patient. If the patient has a fever, he should be put on antipyretic medications. If the patient is coughing, then a cough medication should be given. There are also self-care measures that can be practiced at home. They include the following:
- The patient should be well rested in the house or in the hospital to give the body adequate time to cope.
- Isolate the patient because he has a weak immune system. Doing so can help the patient in preventing secondary infection.
- Increase your intake of fluids to keep the body hydrated. It also helps loosen the mucus, facilitates removal of toxins from the body, and reduces the possibility of dehydration.
- When taking antibiotics, it is important to complete the entire course of antibiotic treatment. If you stop taking the drug too early, the bacteria that cause pneumonia can develop immunity to the drug. As a result, the antibiotic will no longer be effective. You would need a stronger strain of antibiotics. Another downfall of not finishing the course of antibiotic is that if the disease strikes back again, it could be worse than the previous disease. Antibiotic alone will not be that effective in treating the disease. (8)
- Maintain a good personal hygiene to prevent further infection. People with bilateral pneumonia have a weak immune system. Opportunistic bacteria are just waiting for the perfect time to invade the body and cause further damage.
- Live a healthy life. Quit smoking and other activities that can further aggravate your health. (4, 6)
Bilateral pneumonia recovery time
How long to recover from double pneumonia? Does it have a good prognosis? Bilateral pneumonia is more severe than unilateral pneumonia. That being said, bilateral pneumonia takes longer to heal than the unilateral type.
As with the prognosis, bilateral pneumonia has a poor prognosis. The survival rate is extremely low. Most people who suffer from bilateral pneumonia lead to death.
To increase the chance of survival, the disease should be diagnosed in its early stage. Hence, make it a habit to regularly consult your doctor, especially if you feel like something isn’t right in your body. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Remember than prevention is better than cure. (5, 8, 9)