I recently had severe Pneumonia

I have recently been discharged from hospital after having severe pneumonia and have been recovering at home. I have a secondary infection of pleurisy for which I have been taking anti-inflammatory painkillers, which do seem to be helping.

My sleep has been very badly affected, and since admission to hospital I stopped smoking (3 weeks ago) and have not smoked or drunk alcohol since.

I have elevated liver function results, which I am told is as a result of the large amount of intravenous antibiotics that I had in hospital, and I have been feeling some pain in my chest. I am having follow up blood tests tomorrow.

The question that I cannot seem to get a good answer is about when to return to work, and what to avoid. I ventured out today and encountered people with colds, and this has made me exceptionally paranoid about getting sick again, so I am unsure what to do. I was planning on trying to return to work on Monday to see how it went, as I do get out of breath quickly.

I want the flu jab, but I am told I have to wait a while before I can have this now. Any advice would be useful, as some doctors say return to work when you want, and those in hospital said I have to wait 6 weeks.

2 November 2017

With regards to your return to work query I suggest you follow your hospital doctor’s advice and take the 6 weeks off. Pneumonia is physically very hard on the body and takes months to recover from. You will feel tired, and this is to be expected and you will feel breathless even with slight exertion, this will improve over time.

If your GP feels you're fit enough to work after an examination and you feel well enough, then you should be able to return to work. If this is the case, I would suggest you discuss with your manager and occupational health department the possibility of returning to work on a part time basis initially and working back up to full time hours once you feel better.

Pleurisy, which is inflammation of the two layers of tissue covering the lungs is common after a chest infection or pneumonia. You are on the correct treatment, and you do need to continue with this until the pleurisy has resolved.

Pain when breathing is common with pleurisy, and chest pain is also common with persistent coughing. A persistent cough after pneumonia is a well- known problem and this can continue for months after recovery. You will need to look at the colour of any secretions you cough up. Clear or white is normal, yellowish or greenish indicates infection which you would need to see your GP for. If this chest pain you have described is different from the pneumonia or pleurisy chest pain I suggest you see your doctor.

Due to your recent pneumonia you will have a slightly increased risk of picking up colds and flu viruses as your body is working to recover, so I do suggest caution and avoiding large gatherings of people and also caution with friends or relatives who have a cold or flu. Unfortunately people with a cold or flu are infectious a few days before they display symptoms so this is not foolproof. I do suggest caution if you are out in cold weather, as cold air hitting the lungs can trigger some tightening and wheezing as well as coughing. If you do go out in the cold I do suggest you cover your nose and mouth with a scarf to give the air a little extra time to warm up before the cold air gets to your nasal passages and mouth.

It is standard procedure to give you time to recover from any infection before you have a flu vaccination, as a vaccination can trigger mild symptoms of the flu and as your body is still in the recovery process you may develop a flu and this would complicate your recovery. Usually they will wait at least 6-8 weeks post infection before vaccination. I would suggest you follow up with your GP on this.

As to your liver enzyme results, these should start to return to normal after your medication has stopped. This can take a few months. Stopping alcohol will help this, but can take a few months to return to normal. Your doctor will likely be doing regular blood tests for a few months to keep track of your liver enzymes.

Hopefully this will answer some of your questions and I hope you feel better soon.

Answered by Health at Hand team.

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