Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs, causing it to be filled with fluid or pus (purulent material). This may result in a cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.
A variety of organisms (bacteria, viruses, and fungi), can cause pneumonia, and it can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. It is most serious for infants and young children under the age of 5, and people older than age 65. People with health problems or weakened immune systems are also at higher risk.
What Are The Symptoms Of Pneumonia?
Pneumonia symptoms can vary according to the cause and severity of the infection, as well as the age and general health of the individual.
Pneumonia symptoms can be mild to life-threatening, and the most common ones include:
- coughing that may produce mucus
- sweating, and chills
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- Viral pneumonia may start with flu-like symptoms, such as wheezing, which may be followed by a high fever after 12–36 hours.
- Bacterial pneumonia may cause a fever as high as 105°F along with profuse sweating, bluish lips and nails, and bewilderment.
- Children under 5 years of age may have fast breathing, while infants may vomit, lack energy, or have trouble drinking or eating.
- Older people (65+) may have a lower-than-normal body temperature.
- Pneumonia is a lung disease characterized by inflammation of the airspaces in the lungs.
- It may be caused by viral infections, bacterial infections, or fungi. However, the most common bacterial type that causes pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae.
- Pneumonia can be fatal in up to 30% of severe cases that are managed in the intensive care setting.
- Complications of pneumonia may include sepsis, pleural effusion, and empyema.
- Influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are the most widespread viral causes of pneumonia.
- Antiviral drugs may be used to treat pneumonia caused by some types of viruses.
- A chest X-ray is normally done to diagnose pneumonia.
- Vaccinations are available against several common organisms that are known to cause pneumonia.
Risk Factors For Pneumonia
These are some number of factors that increase the risk of developing pneumonia:
- a weakened immune system, due to diseases such as HIV/AIDS or cancer, and medications that suppress immune function
- infants and children of 2 years or younger;
- age 65 and older;
- having a chronic disease such as pulmonary disease, sickle cell anemia, asthma, heart disease, or diabetes;
- being a patient in an intensive care unit of a hospital, especially, if one is on a ventilator support;
- Cigarette smoking.
Treatment normally depends on your general health, the type of pneumonia you have, and how severe it is.
Antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal drugs are used to treat pneumonia, depending on the exact cause of the condition. Most cases of bacterial pneumonia can be treated at home with oral antibiotics.
Most people are likely to respond to the antibiotics in one to three days.
Your doctor may also recommend over-the-counter (OTC) medication to relieve your pain and fever. Such OTC medications may include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Coughing helps remove fluid from your lungs, but your doctor may recommend cough medicine to calm your cough, and give you some rest. But you don’t want to eliminate it entirely.
You can help your recovery and prevent a recurrence by:
- taking your medications as prescribed
- getting a lot of sleep time and rest
- drinking plenty of water and fluids
If your symptoms are very severe or you have other health problems, you may need to be hospitalized, so that doctors can keep track of your heart rate, temperature, and breathing.
Hospital treatment may include:
- Intravenous antibiotics which are injected into your vein.
- Respiratory therapy, which uses a variety of techniques, including delivering specific medications directly into the lungs.
- The respiratory therapist may also teach you how to perform breathing exercises to maximize your oxygenation.
- Oxygen therapy, which helps maintain the oxygen level in your bloodstream. You may also receive oxygen through a nasal tube or a face mask, but if your case is extreme, you may need a machine that supports breathing (a ventilator).
Can Pneumonia Be Prevented?
In many cases, pneumonia can be prevented, and the first line of defense against pneumonia is to get vaccinated. There are two pneumonia vaccines, which can help protect against bacterial pneumonia.
Also, being that pneumonia can often be a complication of the flu, be sure to also get an annual flu shot.
Pneumonia vaccines won’t prevent all cases of the condition, but if you’re vaccinated, you’re likely to have a milder and shorter illness, and a lower risk of complications.
Thus, get vaccinated, Practice good hygiene, don’t smoke, since smoking damages your lungs’ natural defenses against respiratory infections, and remember to keep your immune system strong. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly and have a healthy diet plan.