Harvard Women's Health Watch

Be alert to pneumonia this winter

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Influenza and other upper respiratory infections can set the stage for pneumonia.

Pneumonia can rapidly become serious, particularly for seniors, so get treatment early.

Pneumonia is sneaky. Although people with pneumonia occasionally have the classic signs—fever, flushed cheeks, rattling lungs, and discolored (green-brown) mucus—pneumonia is more likely to produce symptoms common to scores of other maladies. Because it often evades detection, pneumonia has been a leading cause of death in the United States for more than a century. "Pneumonia in all ages is really hard to diagnose because the symptoms aren't specific, and older people are less likely to have typical symptoms than younger ones," says Dr. Sophia Koo, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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