First of all, doctors will ask about medical history and run a physical exam as a routine. Doctors will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope, they're checking for abnormal sounds like bubbling or crackling. These sounds suggest pneumonia. Sometimes when listening to children's lungs doctors might ask the children to blow at a piece of tissue. It helps doctors to notice subtle abnormal sounds.
When doctors suspect pneumonia, they will order a few tests.
- Blood tests. Blood tests help to identify type of infection, virus, bacteria, Mycoplasma, etc.
- Chest X-ray. X-ray shows the location of the infection and the extent of infection.
The chest x-ray shows locations of infection in the patient's lung.
- Pulse oximetry. It's to measure your oxygen level. Pneumonia can cause low oxygen saturation, meaning less oxygen in your bloodstream.
- Sputum test. Take a sample of fluid from your lungs with a deep cough, then analyze the fluid, this will pinpoint the germ that causes the infection.
These are the measures that help doctors to diagnose pneumonia. For patients older than 65, doctors might order other tests as necessary. Not a single test can tell everything, the blood test confirms infection and the possible type of infection, the chest X-ray confirms infection in lungs, the sputum test confirms what germ causes the infection. In order to give the most suitable treatment, doctors will usually order two or three tests.