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Pneumonia: Get the Facts

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs characterized by inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs (alveoli). The air sacs can become filled with fluid, causing coughing with phlegm. This can affect either one or both of the lungs. The infection commonly starts as an upper respiratory infection, then later moves into the lower respiratory tract such as the lungs. Pneumonia is a fairly common illness and can range in severity from mild to life-threatening. Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of infections such as viruses, fungi, bacteria and parasites and is commonly seen alongside the influenza virus.

There are three sub-categories of pneumonia:

  • Hospital-acquired, where the infection is acquired in a hospital
  • Health care-acquired, where the infection is acquired in long-term treatment facilities
  • Aspiration pneumonia, where the infection is acquired by inhaling food, drinks, vomit or saliva into your lungs

Symptoms of pneumonia

Common symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • Cough, with or without mucus
  • Fever
  • Chills that may cause shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain that gets worse when you cough or breathe deeply
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pains
  • Nausea
  • Lower-than-normal body temperature

Who is at risk?

Pneumonia can often be treated at home. However, if you are having difficulty breathing; chest pain; a fever of 102F (39C) or higher; confusion; or a persistent cough, it is important to see your family doctor. While adults do not typically see persistent and severe symptoms, there are some populations who are more at risk for severe pneumonia. These populations include:

•Young children

•Older adults

•Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions such as chronic illnesses or those who have recently recovered from another illness

•Individuals who have experienced surgery or trauma

•Individuals who smoke

•Patients who have a weakened immune system, such as those with HIV or going through radiation treatment

Treatment

The treatment for pneumonia depends on how severe the infection is. Some people are able to self-treat their pneumonia at home with plenty of fluids and rest. Mild to moderate fever that may accompany the pneumonia can be treated with asprin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, or acetaminophen.

The prescription treatments for pneumonia depend on what type of infection caused the illness. Antibiotics such as azithromycin, clarithromycin or erythromycin often work very well for non-complicated cases of bacterial pneumonia. Stronger antibiotics may be needed if the infection is more serious. Antibiotic medications will not be able to treat viral pneumonia. Your doctor may prescribe certain antiviral medications instead to treat the infection. Viral pneumonia normally improves in one to three weeks.

Receiving your annual pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations is an important part of resisting pneumonia. This is a normal part of every child’s annual vaccination schedule. This vaccine often prevents an individual from getting pneumonia. If you do get pneumonia after receiving the vaccination, the infection will not be as severe.

  • Penumonia basically refers to lung infection which is often characterised by the inflammation of the air sacs present in the alveoli. These sacs are known to get filled with fluid leading to the coughing along with phlegm. This condition can affect either one or both the lungs of the individual. It mostly starts from the upper respiratory infection and then moves into the lower respiratory tract. Anybody can be affected by pneumonia even though the risk in certain individuals would be higher as compared to others. Hence it becomes important to reduce the risk of getting pneumonia especially for small children by getting oneself a flu shot every year for preventing any kind of seasonal influenza including pneumonia.
  • Few of the common symptoms an individual suffering from pneumonia would experience are headache, coughing constantly either with or without the mucus, fever, pain in the chest which tends to worsen when one is breathing or coughing, loss of appetite, pain in the muscles, nausea, chilling sensation which can lead to shaking and the body temperature would be below normal.
  • There are various causes of pneumonia such as germs including bacteria, viruses or parasites or it can also be caused due to fungi.
  • If timely treatment is not carried out, then pneumonia can turn out to be deadly or it can lead to death of the individual. Research has shown that pneumonia can become serious or fatal enough mostly in those cases who have weak immune system thereby leading to further other complications consisting of lung abscess, respiratory failure and many other issues.
  • Hence it becomes important to stay fit and healthy since that it is the key for keeping any medical conditions at bay. Following a good hygiene is also important such as washing hands thoroughly, following a healthy diet routine, exercising on a regular basis, staying away from alcohol and smoking and getting adequate amount of rest for the body.
  • For individual suffering from bacterial pneumonia, the doctor would mostly prescribe the use of antibiotics since it would help in killing a wide range of bacteria.
  • Those individuals who are complaining of finding it difficult to breath, having severe case of chest pain, a high body temperature, feeling of confusion, persistent case of coughing then it becomes important to visit the doctor without any delay. There are certain people who would be at a higher risk of getting severe case of pneumonia and they are, older adults, small or young children, those who have suffered any trauma or undergone a surgery, individuals with weakened immune system or suffering from any kind of pre-existing medical condition.
  • Pneumonia treatment would mostly depend upon the severity of the infection and what has caused it in the first place. There are certain individuals who can self-treat themselves at home by increasing the intake of fluids and resting. For non-complicated cases antibiotics would work the trick but it would not help for viral pneumonia. The doctor can then prescribe antiviral medications. It is also important to undertake vaccinations on a timely manner.