Mayo Clinic describes pneumonia as “a viral infection of the lungs.” Also, its symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, fever, chills, and coughing with phlegm. Usually, this illness is curable at home through medicine intake, specifically, antibiotics. But, in some cases, there may be a need to spend some time in a hospital. And at times, it can even cause death.
Facts About Pneumonia
Pneumonia is most severe for infants, young kids, and people aged over 65 years old. Also, individuals with weakened immune systems and health issues are prone to illness. If you worry about the illness, striking your senior loved one, there are pneumonia vaccines available to fight the disease.
1. Causes of Pneumonia
Too many germs can be the main source of pneumonia. Similarly, the most typical are viruses and bacteria. The body usually prevents microbes from lung infections. However, sometimes, these germs can overpower the immune system even if a person’s general health condition is excellent.
Moreover, pneumonia depends on classifications and the type of bacteria leading to it. Incidentally, their pneumonia types that may occur in an individual. These include the mycoplasma pneumoniae, streptococcus pneumoniae, and walking pneumonia.
- Acquired from the Community – This is the most common pneumonia type. It occurs outside the hospital or other health care centers. Among the most common causes of this pneumonia are bacteria, bacteria-like organisms, viruses, and fungi.
- Acquired from the Hospital – Some people can catch pneumonia while confined at a hospital due to another illness. This pneumonia type can be severe since the bacteria causing it may resist antibiotics. More so, it can be more serious because the person acquiring it is sick already. In addition, those breathing with the help of a ventilator, frequently operated in ICUs, are more prone to pneumonia.
- Acquired from Health Care – This pneumonia type is also a bacterial infection occurring in people living in long-term care centers. It occurs too, in someone who receives care in various outpatient clinics like the kidney dialysis center.
- Aspiration pneumonia – This pneumonia type occurs when one inhales drink, food, saliva or vomit into his lungs. Aspiration more possibly occurs if something is disturbing a person’s normal gag reflex like brain injury, excessive alcohol or drug use, or swallowing problems.
2. Signs and Symptoms You Need to Watch
Viral pneumonia can develop gradually for several days. Bacterial pneumonia on the other hand typically develops fast and frequently, more than one day. Relatively, most patients who acquire pneumonia have a viral infection like flu or cold. This infection produces symptoms like muscle aches, fever, and headache. If the illness develops, here are the signs to watch and monitor:
- Rapid breathing
- Severe cough possibly with green/yellow or bloody phlegm
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
If the patient is over 65 years old, he may show signs of reduced mental awareness or confusion. Moreover, possible symptoms can be lips, nail beds, and skin becoming bluish or dusky. This indicates that the lungs cannot deliver adequate oxygen to the body. If this happens, it is essential to seek medical advice immediately.
During medical consultation, you may undergo an X-Ray test, a CT scan, and other blood tests to know the severity of your lung disease. The result may vary, too, according to the type of pneumonia you may have acquired.
3. How Pneumonia is Diagnosed
If you are doubtful that your loved one has pneumonia, it is essential that you seek medical or clinical attention promptly. Consequently, an accurate diagnosis can happen followed by proper treatment to be delivered, as well. Here, the doctor takes a medical history and conducts a physical examination. While the test is going on, the doctor listens to your chest using a stethoscope.
It is likely for the doctor to hear coarse breathing, reduced, and wheezing breath sounds in the lungs. All of these all indicate pneumonia. Typically, a patient goes through a chest x-ray, as well, for the confirmation of the diagnosis. The said test shows the lung areas in which pneumonia affects. You may also take some blood tests and sputum samples for lab testing.
4. Treating and Preventing Life-Threatening Disease
Most pneumonia cases are treatable at home. However, there might be a need for hospital confinement for babies, small children, and people suffering from severe pneumonia for further treatment. Pneumonia is usually treatable through antibiotics intake. As for the antibiotic type to use, and the manner it should be administered, it usually depends on the cause and severity of the illness.
You can administer treatment at home through:
- Paracetamol to lower fever
- Pain reliever
- Antibiotics (in the form of either liquid or tablet)
- Drinking lots of liquids particularly water, to loosen the mucus in the lungs
- Complete rest
For treatments in the hospital, these include:
- Antibiotics through drop into the vein
- Oxygen to make sure that the body is getting enough oxygen
- Physiotherapy for the clearing of sputum in the lungs
It may take weeks to recover from pneumonia completely. As part of the recovery process, coughing may continue until the lungs become free from mucus. Also, an individual may experience fatigue, and there is a lesser ability to exercise experienced.
For the preventive measures, here are some steps to reduce the risk of acquiring pneumonia:
Breastfeeding – This helps boost a baby’s (preferably more than 4 months old) immune system
- Avoid smoking and ensure a smoke-free home
- Keep your home well-ventilated and warm
- Have a vaccination, specifically, the one that fights pneumococcal disease, Haemophilus Influenza Type B or Hib, and influenza
- Frequent and thorough washing of hands
- Avoiding contact with those who have colds or the flu or any other infection
5. Risk factors
This illness can affect anyone, regardless of age and gender. However, there are two groups at the highest risk. These two age groups are the children aged 2 years old and above, and individuals aged 65 years old and above.
Among the other factors include:
- Hospital confinement – You can be at a higher risk of this disease if you are in an intensive care unit of a hospital. Specifically, it can be risky for you too, if you are on a ventilator that helps you breathe.
- Chronic illness – You can catch pneumonia if you have heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, or asthma.
- Too much smoking – This can damage the natural defense of your body against the viruses and bacteria that can cause pneumonia.