Double pneumonia is a disease that causes uncomfortable symptoms and leaves you vulnerable. It is extremely important to contact your health services if you suspect having this.

What is double pneumonia?

When both lungs get infected by an infection, this is known as double pneumonia. It happens when viruses, bacterias, or fungus cause inflammation in the grape-like sacs in the lungs called alveoli and fill them with pus or fluid.

This can result in breathing difficulties and other symptoms. If it gets worsened, it will cause permanent scarring of the lungs and may lead to respiratory failure.

We can also classify pneumonia based on the number of lobes of your lungs involved. The more number of lobes infected, the more serious is the disease, whether one lung is involved or both are involved.

Double pneumonia is also known as bilateral pneumonia or bilateral interstitial pneumonia. It’s one of the top causes of death in children under the age of five.

You can get this pneumonia as a complication of COVID-19.

Those people who have some streptococcal bacterial infection, flu, respiratory syncytial virus, or some other infections are at risk of developing double pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of double pneumonia?

We can not easily differentiate between pneumonia and double pneumonia only based on symptoms. It is essential to see a doctor if you think you have double pneumonia.

It usually develops along with some other respiratory illnesses. Situations that make it for germs to get into the body, like exposure to dust or some particular gases or fluid getting into the lungs, can cause pneumonia.

Since both lungs are involved, it doesn’t mean that the symptoms would be necessarily severe. The infection can be mild, moderate, or severe in both lungs.

If you have faced any of these situations and are at risk of developing pneumonia, do a search for the following symptoms.

  • High fever with chills. In rare cases, some people get a low-grade fever.
  • Cough with sputum or phlegm, which gets worsened with time.
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing.
  • Pain in the chest.
  • Fatigue and muscle aches.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite

What are the consequences of double pneumonia?

The progression of the disease can cause some serious complications, particularly in those who are immunocompromised or have weak immune systems. Following complications can occur:

  • A systemic inflammation of the body known as sepsis
  • Lung abscesses
  • Pleural effusions. Pneumonia can cause the pleural fluid to gather in the pleural space, and if this fluid gets infected, it even can cause death.
  • Kidney failure and respiratory failure
  • Pleurisy ( there is inflammation of the pleural layers that cause breathing discomfort and pain in the chest)

What causes double pneumonia?

Microbial infections of the lungs are the most common cause of pneumonia, commonly by viruses or bacterias and less commonly by fungus.

When these microbes infect both lungs, it results in double pneumonia. Following are the causes of double pneumonia:

  • Pneumonia caused by bacterias is the most frequent cause of pneumonia in adults. And the most common bacteria involved is Streptococcus pneumonia.
  • The most common virus affecting adults causing pneumonia is the influenza virus. In children, RSV is the most common virus causing pneumonia. People having viral pneumonia have a greater risk of having secondary bacterial pneumonia.
  • Pneumonia caused by fungus is not so common. People who are immunocompromised and have a weakened immune system are at risk of developing fungal pneumonia.

Who are at risk of double pneumonia?

People with the following factors have a greater risk of developing pneumonia:

  • Elders above 65
  • Toddlers
  • Tobacco smokers
  • Malnourishment
  • Having asthma, C.O.P.D. (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), cystic fibrosis, and other diseases of the lungs.
  • Immunocompromised patients (People with AIDS, HIV, and autoimmune disorders)
  • Taking immunosuppressive drugs
  • Recent upper respiratory tract viral infections
  • Swallowing discomfort

When to see your doctor over double pneumonia?

Double pneumonia is a very serious disease, and if not treated on time, it can be fatal. Therefore, it is very important to get it treated at an early phase. If pneumonia is not treated, it can cause permanent damage to the lungs.

The symptoms of pneumonia are like flu or cold, but if your symptoms are serious and last for three days or more, seek medical assistance immediately.

In case of high-grade fever and breathing difficulties, one should seek prompt treatment and must consider it as an emergency.

Double pneumonia can be diagnosed with the help of chest x-rays, blood tests, and thorough physical examination by your physician.

In CT scans of the patient with double pneumonia, often white patches called “ground glass” are seen, and these signify lung sores.

Those with risk factors and chronic illnesses should take extra care and see the doctor immediately if they have symptoms.

How to treat bilateral pneumonia?

Double pneumonia is treated in almost the same way as simple pneumonia. Some over the counter medication for treating pneumonia include:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
  • Acetaminophen

The treatment depends on the particular causes and course of the disease.

  • If bacteria caused the infection, then the patient will be given an antibiotic.
  • For those in which the disease gets complicated and have sepsis or pleurisy, intravenous antimicrobial will be administered.
  • Viral pneumonia is not treated with antibiotics. It’s treated with antiviral drugs. It can be treated at home, but patients with serious illnesses may need to be hospitalized.

The goal of the treatment is to keep the lungs safe from further damage and to ensure comfortable breathing in a person. In some cases, an additional oxygen supply might be needed. Apart from these, proper rest and hydration must be ensured.

Cough suppressants should not be taken unless advised by a doctor. Though coughing is uncomfortable, it assists the body in subsiding the infection.

How long will you recover from bilateral pneumonia?

With proper and timely treatment, a patient recovers from pneumonia. Most healthy patients recover in 3 to 5 days. But if the treatment is rushed and proper measures are not taken, a patient may not recover from pneumonia.

If you are admitted to the hospital, the recovery may take a while.

  • Avoid any physical exertion.
  • Take all medication on time as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Tell your doctor about your habits i.e. smoking.

Those who are immunocompromised or have other chronic illnesses, often see disease recurrences and complications. Some severely immuno-compromised patients develop double pneumonia as a complication.

How to prevent bilateral pneumonia?

The pneumonia-causing microorganisms may cause disease in some and not in others. This entirely depends on individual risk factors. Following measures can prevent double pneumonia:

  • To avoid people suffering from respiratory infections and places where sick are present such as hospitals and if it’s necessary, do follow the standard protocols.
  • To keep a check on your chronic illnesses and their proper management.
  • To follow proper hygiene practices like regularly washing your hands.
  • To get a vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia and flu shots against the influenza virus.

Key takeaway

Double pneumonia is a serious medical condition. If timely and adequately treated, the patient can recover. People with weak immune systems should take extra care and consult its preventative measures with their physician.

Please always see your doctor if you are feeling unwell, the earlier an illness is discovered, the better chances you have at relieving it.

To learn more about other infectious diseases, read about the smallpox disease.


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Amy Revene M.B.B.S.
Amy Revene M.B.B.S. graduated from the University of Sharjah. She is currently working as a General Physician at New Hope Medical Center. Amy has a passion for research and offers her expertise and opinions helping people in their quest to lead healthy, happy lives.

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