Pneumonia is an inflammation or infection of the lungs. If the infection affects one section of the lungs, it is known as lobar pneumonia and if it affects sections in both the lungs, then it is known as multilobar pneumonia.
When a person has pneumonia, the air sack inside your lungs slowly gets filled up with pus and other liquids, thus reducing the pathway of oxygen. People with suppressed immune systems, heart and lung disease or suffering from alcoholism, kidney failure, HIV, diabetes are at higher risk. Children who are below 2 years of age are also at risk.
Pneumonia can be of different types such as bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia, aspiration pneumonia, fungal pneumonia, hospital-acquired pneumonia and community-based pneumonia. Streptococcus pneumonia is the most common bacterium that causes inflammation of the lungs. Other bacterias are Chlamydophila pneumonia and Legionella pneumophila.
Some flu causing viruses such as influenza type A & B and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are often responsible for viral pneumonia in young children and elderly people. Fungal pneumonia occurs due to contact with fungi (Coccidioides) present in soil or bird dropping inhalation. Patients having a tracheostomy tube in the airway may be at higher risk of pneumonia-causing bacteria and it is called hospital-based pneumonia.
Common signs and symptoms of pneumonia are cough along with mucus or blood, rise of body temperature to or above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, excessive sweating and chills, difficulty in breathing, nausea & vomiting, pain in the chest region, wheezing, difficulty in drinking or eating, lack of energy and confusion. Sometimes the signs of pneumonia are misunderstood with cold or flu. So, If these symptoms last for more than 3 days, medical attention should be taken.
Pneumonia can occur for a number of reasons. Unlike other most common diseases, which have a definite cause (strep throat is caused by streptococcus bacteria, flu is caused by influenza virus), these diseases are caused due to multiple factors like bacteria, fungus, viruses, mycoplasmas or even chemicals.
Generally, those who are infected with a flu virus and any other respiratory ailments get infected with this disease. In some cases, pneumonia germs get passed from one person to another, since the disease spreads through the air. Simple protective measures like washing your hands, getting your flu vaccine at the right time, avoiding people who are seriously ill should be exercised to prevent pneumonia.
Patients suffering from chronic disease (Asthma, heart disease, bronchiectasis) and have a low immune system (due to HIV or AIDS) are at higher risk. Smoking, consumption of excessive drug or alcohol, poor oral hygiene, exposure to animals, chemical or environmental toxins and malnutrition are other factors.
Although, the flu vaccine doesn’t completely prevent pneumonia (as it’s only protection against influenza virus), however, it provides some protection from this disease.
The pneumonia vaccine for children is PCV13. This is a recommended vaccine for all children who are under the age of two. This vaccine protects children from 13 pneumococcal bacteria. There is another vaccine PPSV23 available for children (beyond 2 years) and adults.
Doctors usually prescribe over-the-counter medications to treat symptoms of pneumonia. These medicines act as fever reducers or pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen and cough medicines. If the symptoms are more severe, then the doctor may prefer antibiotics such as antiviral agents or antibacterial drugs to treat it.
The treatment is generally decided on basis of age, overall health, medical history and severity of pneumonia. Patients are advised to take complete rest along with drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated so that the immunity can be boosted. In some cases, hospitalization is also required for early and fast recovery from pneumonia through the administration of intravenous antibiotics and fluids.
Pneumonia can be treated and cured completely, however, in some people with weakened immunity or the presence of chronic disease, it results in long-term problems.
One out of 15 children under the age of 5 years dies because the pneumococcal infection spreads to the brain and leads to invasive meningitis disease. If the infection of pneumococcal enters into the bloodstream, it also causes death, the condition known as bacteremia.
Furthermore, the expansion of infection in the lungs such as space between membranes and airway passages, or in the sac surrounding heart causes complexities. Other complications occurring due to pneumonia are lung abscesses, impaired breathing, acute respiratory distress syndrome, pleural effusion and death.
Pneumonia can be prevented through vaccination in the early stages of life. Vaccines named Prevnar (PVC13 for infants) and Pneumovax (PPSV23 for children and adults) are generally used to fight against pneumonia occurring due to bacteria S. pneumoniae.
Other measures for preventing pneumonia include restricting or limiting smoking, maintaining a hygienic atmosphere by regular washing hands, covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, following a healthy diet, avoiding contact with sputum or cough particle of the infected person, having enough rest and physical activities.
If a person experience symptoms of pneumonia, then some home remedies can be used to care and control the condition. A proper diet with adequate rest at home can help in managing this condition.
Use of peppermint, eucalyptus and fenugreek tea and saltwater gargle are helpful in cough while drinking a cup of tea or coffee and inhaling warm and damp air can ease in shortness of breath. Over-the-counter medication for pain and fever can be used as well as ginger or turmeric tea acts as powerful anti-inflammatory agent for chest pain.