Hillary Clinton’s Pneumonia Diagnosis & The Health Lessons We Can Learn From It

by Nguyen Pham
Ever since presidential candidate Hillary Clinton left a September 11th memorial early, there's has been a rush of speculation about her health. Clinton's physician Dr. Lisa Bardack reported that Clinton's bacterial pneumonia diagnosis (aka, "walking pneumonia") was being treated with antibiotics and she should recover soon. Bardack has also released a letter calling Clinton's case mild.

But what Bardack didn't say is that it takes about four to six weeks to shake off most of pneumonia's symptoms like muscle pain, dry cough, or fever, as Dr. Steven Simpson, the medical director of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care at The University of Kansas Hospital told the Washington Post. Clinton canceled her trip to California earlier this week to rest, but now she's resumed her presidential campaign. In a speech Friday, Clinton stated that, "my instinct was to push through it. That is what women do every single day."

As someone whose own pneumonia diagnosis turned cancerous, I'm wary of her decision — but luckily, I'm not under the spotlight as a presidential candidate. But here's what we all should know about pneumonia (because yes, it can be serious!):

What's Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation to one or both lungs. Once the air sacs are filled with mucus and other fluids, oxygen has a harder time reaching blood cells. The lack of air flow to your body's interconnected systems causes people to feel more tired. Though antibiotics and rest are common ways to treat pneumonia, Clinton and anyone over 65 years old are at a higher risk to experience more than the typical infection.

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Here's What Happened With My Own Case 

Bardack's statement noted that Clinton had "mind non-contagious bacterial pneumonia" in the right middle lobe of her lung. Similarly, my pneumonia was found in the right lobe as bacterial pneumonia 10 years ago. I was given antibiotics and, as I was a student at the time, told to return to class. However, pneumonia's symptoms continue to linger. It took three months of chest X-rays, pulmonary breathing tests and a bronchoscopy to discover that the spot in my right lung was cancerous.

Oncologists struggle to diagnose lung cancer to nonsmokers because symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath or exhaustion is similar to pneumonia or bronchitis. The CDC found that most people with lung cancer do not experience symptoms until the cancer has advanced.

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The Biggest Takeaway Lessons About Pneumonia


1. Pneumonia can affect you differently, depending on your age. 

Though it's unlikely that Clinton's pneumonia will worsen under Bardack's care, despite her packed campaign schedule, it's important to recognize that pneumonia can be a dangerous infection at Clinton's age of 68. Older adults aged 65 years and up and young children under five are most at risk for developing pneumonia. But with proper treatment, the symptoms will probably disappear without Clinton feeling anything more than a lingering fatigue.

2. Protect yourself by getting vaccinated.

Pneumonia is not a difficult infection to treat, but early detection is key. In fact, it is possible to get pneumonia from influenza, which is why physicians ask everyone to get vaccinated. Vaccines can prevent some of the most deadly causes of pneumonia, including flu, measles, and Pneumococcus. For adults over 65 years old, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two vaccines: the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and then the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23).

3. Want to stay healthy? Practice good health habits overall.

Stay away from other sick people and wash your hands regularly (something that's no easy feat for a political candidate who's regualrly shaking hands!).

4. And if you do get pneumonia, take care of yourself...and be grateful you don't have a presidential campaign to run.

In general, aid your recovery by getting plenty of rest, and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration Take antibotics as directed, and consider taking an over-the-counter medication like asprin to help reduce fever.

WATCH on Z Living: Change The Day You Die, where each week, one lucky person will get the chance to rewrite their future and start living a much healthier life. See a sneak peek here.

Tell us in the comments: Have you ever contracted pneumonia? How long was your recovery time? 

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