Pneumonia is a lung infection that may cause cough, fever, and problems in breathing. Pneumonia is the infection of your lung tissue. It is usually not a serious infection, but in some patients, such as those with a weakened immune system, it could be a fatal infection. For most people, pneumonia can be treated at home, as it often clears up in two to three weeks. However, in most patients, pneumonia can be completely cured. Anyone can get pneumonia. It's commonly a complication of a respiratory infection, especially the flu. Pneumonia usually starts when you breathe the germs into your lungs. You may be more likely to get the disease after having a cold or the flu. Having a long-term or chronic, disease like asthma, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, also makes you more likely to get pneumonia.
How is Pneumonia Managed?
Treatment for pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia the patient has and how severe it is, as well as if he has other chronic diseases. Treatment of pneumonia involves many areas, not just treatment with antibiotics. Pneumonia can be treated pharmacologically and non-pharmacologically. The goals of treatment are to cure the infection and prevent complications. The pharmacological management of pneumonia includes:
- Antibiotic therapy
Antibiotics kill bacteria or prevent them from reproducing. Doctors use antibiotics to treat pneumonia caused by bacteria. There are many types of antibiotics, and the doctor is the best person to decide which antibiotic will work best for the patient. The mainstay in treatment of pneumonia is antibiotics. When a patient is first diagnosed with pneumonia, a broad-spectrum antibiotic is prescribed. Broad-spectrum antibiotics are the antibiotics that target a wide range of likely-causative bacteria. The reason for choosing to use this is because when pneumonia is first diagnosed, the exact causative organism is not known. It takes about 3 days for the sputum culture and antibiotic-sensitivity test results to come. Therefore, until they do, a broad-spectrum antibiotic is used. Once the results come, the antibiotics will be changed according the causative organism and the antibiotic sensitivity. Doctors always avoid using tetracyclines for children younger than age 8, as medications of that sort tend to discolor a child's teeth.
- Oxygen therapy
This is another important mainstay in the treatment of pneumonia. Oxygen is also a drug, and it cannot be given to a patient unless it is prescribed by a doctor. Pneumonia patients are likely to have fluid in their air sacs, which greatly reduces the gaseous exchange. This reduces the amount of oxygen supplied to the body tissues. If the amount of oxygen supplied to the peripheral tissues is lessened, then oxygen should be supplemented to prevent damage to the tissues. To implement this, oxygen supplementation is one way to help patients who cannot breathe adequately on their own. Management of oxygen supplementation is divided into nasal cannula and mechanical ventilation. Mechanical ventilation is life‐supporting ventilation that involves the use of a machine called a ventilator, also known as a respirator. There are two main types of mechanical ventilation: non‐invasive ventilation (NIV) and invasive ventilation. The earlier provides ventilatory support to a patient through a tightly fitted facial or nasal mask, and the latter provides oxygen through a tube inserted into the windpipe through the mouth, the nose, or a hole made in the windpipe through the front of the throat.
Oxygen can be supplemented via a nasal prong or a face mask. There are several other ways to supply oxygen:
Bronchodilators are inhaled medications given together with oxygen to open up the airways. These drugs also prevent bronchospasms. Both these mechanisms allow the patient to get more air down into the lungs.
Patients with pneumonia have sputum blocking their airways. Mucolytics help break down the sputum and make it easier for these patients to cough it out. This also helps the patient breathe much more easily.
Pneumonia can be a very painful condition. The pain can be relieved with these pain medications, starting from the simplest analgesic, such as paracetamol, and going on to more powerful ones, like opioids.
Pneumonia also can cause a high fever. This can be reduced with antipyretics, such as acetaminophen and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).
Now that the pharmacological management of pneumonia has been discussed, let us see how pneumonia is treated non-pharmacologically:
- Positioning of the patient
The ideal position for a patient with pneumonia to be in is lying down, with the head end of the bed elevated to an angle of 30 degrees. This pushes the abdominal organs down, thus preventing them from pushing up on the lungs. Not only does this position help patients breathe easier, but it also helps them cough out the sputum easily. As for children, they should be in whatever position they are comfortable with.
- Chest physiotherapy
Chest physiotherapy is another vital step in the management of these patients. This helps break up the sputum and clear up the lungs. This is quite an effective way to remove the secretions from the lungs.
Mobility is a very important aspect in the treatment of pneumonia. Movement will help patients get rid of the secretions much faster and recover much quicker, instead of just staying on the bed doing nothing.
Another essential strategy to help clear the secretions is to drink lots of fluids. Increasing the fluids will thin the secretions, thus allowing you to easily expectorate the excess mucus. Patients must opt to add juices and extra water intake in their diet. It is important to avoid juices that have excess sugar, because this may worsen the condition.
The body needs a sufficient amount of nutrients, especially proteins, to help the body fight against the infection. This is not a time to diet. With the advice of a doctor, the patient must work out a health chart that includes proper timing and meal details to maintain proper intake of minerals by the body.
- Continuous monitoring of the patient
It is vital that you monitor the patient and watch for signs of deterioration, such as a reduced level of consciousness and an increased respiratory rate. This is important so that you can act early on before the patient goes into respiratory failure.
Pneumonia can be a very serious condition, but it can be fully treated. Be sure to discuss these treatment options with your doctor.
- Pneumonia can be completely cured.
- The mainstay in treatment of pneumonia is antibiotics.
- The ideal position for a patient with pneumonia to be in is lying down, with the head end of the bed elevated to an angle of 30 degrees.