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Physical Exam for Pneumonia

Topic Overview

When you visit your doctor for suspected pneumonia, he or she will check:

  • Your heart rate. It may be faster if you have a fever or are dehydrated.
  • Your temperature. You usually have a fever in pneumonia.
  • Your breathing. Fast, shallow breathing; difficulty breathing; and shortness of breath often are symptoms of pneumonia.
  • Whether you have chest pain.
  • Your oxygen level.
  • Other symptoms, if you have any. For example, rash may develop in some people who have pneumonia. Other symptoms may include fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, cough, and dehydration. Complications of pneumonia may include stiff neck (a symptom of meningitis), swollen joints, and abdominal (belly) pain.

Your doctor also will listen to your chest for:

  • Crackling or bubbling noises (rales) made by movement of fluid in the tiny air sacs of the lung.
  • Dull thuds heard when the chest is tapped (percussion dullness), which indicate that there is fluid in a lung or collapse of part of a lung.
  • Sounds made by rubbing of swollen (inflamed) lung tissue on the lining of the lung cavity (pleural friction rub).
  • Lack of breath sounds in a certain area of the chest, which may mean that air is not entering an area of the lung.
  • Wheezing, which usually means inflammation or spasm is present in the bronchial tubes.
  • "E" to "A" changes in the lungs (egophony). Your doctor may have you say the letter "E" while he listens to your chest. Pneumonia may cause the "E" to sound like the letter "A" when heard through a stethoscope.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology
Last Revised March 6, 2013

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