PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) --Each year, doctors estimate between five and 10 million people get pneumonia in the U.S., and the disease puts more than 1 million people in the hospital.
Pneumonia can appear in many forms.
The general public often think of pneumonia as something that happens when you don't take care of a cold, but doctors say they're two separate things.
If you're not sleeping well, eating well or fighting a bad cold, it is possible for secondary infections to set in.
Avoiding pneumonia is a top priority for chronic cbstructive pulmonary disease patient Aaron Kleinman.
"My internist says that is more deadly than the common cold," said Kleinman.
Pneumonia is any infection of the lung. It could be bacterial, viral or fungal. The severity of the illness depends on age and other conditions a person might have.
Dr. Ayman Saad, a pulmonologist with Huntington Pulmonary Medical Group, described how pneumonia causes an infection that fills tiny air sacs known as alveoli with fluid.
"Pneumonia is a very distinct set of symptoms: cough, fever, chest pain and low oxygen level.
Saad said when most people think of pneumonia, they picture the bacterial kind caused by a common pathogen.
"Pneumococcus lives everywhere. It lives in our mouths, it lives in our environment. If you get enough of an exposure under the right circumstances, you can get pneumonia," he added.
There are two vaccines for pneumococcal pneumonia.
Doctors recommend people over the age of 65 and those with chronic lung disease and immune deficiencies get the shot, but other bugs can cause pneumonia.
"There are certain bacteria, not pneumococcal that we talked about, that can cause this so-called walking pneumonia where people feel a little sick, have a cough, shortness of breath, but generally they can go about their day very well," Saad said.
Saad pointed out that a prolonged cough often points to a viral pneumonia. For this, doctors recommend rest, hydration and medications to manage symptoms.
He added it's hard to know what you have unless you seek medical care.
"If you're coughing and bringing up nasty, discolored phlegm, you really do have to start thinking about a pneumonia and see a doctor," he said.
Kleinman said he makes a point to get a pneumonia shot. He also eats well, drinks plenty of water and always washes his hands.