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Pneumonia - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

Last Updated: Mar 14, 2022

What is Pneumonia?

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.

Types of Pneumonia

Pneumonia can be categorized into 4 groups differentiated upon how it's caused, they are:

  • Bacterial Pneumonia: caused by a bacteria named Streptococcus Pneumonia. This is generally an attack on an individual with low immunity due to poor lifestyle choices.
  • Viral Pneumonia: this is caused either by other types of virus-like influenza or bacterial Pneumonia. This also falls under the category of highly contagious diseases which can infect an individual at any age.
  • Mycoplasma Pneumonia: caused by a bacterium named Mycoplasma Pneumonia. Which can be contagious. Unlike other types, this causes mild symptoms to the infected person.
  • Other Pneumonia: these are other forms of Pneumonia that are caused by fungal infections. They can be very mild and do not have a major impact on the patient.

What are the 4 stages of Pneumonia?

There are 4 stages in which Pneumonia affects an individual, they are:

  • Congestion: during the first 24hrs of infection one may feel tightness and congestion in the chest. During this time the infection is situated in the lungs only. During this time your body has fewer white blood cells to fight, which leads the infection onto the second phase.
  • Red hepatization: during the next two to four days, the infection starts to spread in your lungs showing different symptoms which can be between mild to moderate. The infection started to spread into your windpipe and air sacs leading the infection to the third stage.
  • Grey hepatization: The third stage is a little serious, in the next four to eight days your lungs start to turn yellow or grey as a sign of broken red blood cells in your lungs. The broken red cells came out in the form of cough excretion.

    It causes serious breathing difficulty which makes you feel tired and dizzy most of the time.

  • Resolution: after eight days of infection your body starts to produce a good amount of white blood cells which kills off the bacteria. The infection at this stage is almost out of your system but you still have some tiredness and coughing.

    This is because your body is trying to take out all the dust, debris, dead cells, and other damaged tissues through coughing and start the repair process of the damaged areas.

How does Pneumonia kill?

Since there is no treatment plan available to cure the diseases, its course of treatment merely depends on individual immunity and vaccination. If the person is vaccinated, s/he would not have to face any serious impacts of the disease, however, if a person is not vaccinated and has a low immunity then it can develop a life-threatening situation.

When should you go to the hospital with Pneumonia?

It is recommended to visit your nearest medical emergency section within the 24hrs of infection, as at that stage it is easier to handle the spread of bacteria than any other stage. If you experience sudden chest congestion, difficulty breathing, and bloody cough then it's serious enough to go to a doctor.

What should you not do when you have Pneumonia?

Here are the things that one needs to avoid during Pneumonia:

  • Medications like cough syrups without doctor’s consultation
  • Smoking and consumption of alcohol
  • Cold beverages, shower, or weather
  • Fast Foods or foods that are high in starch, or oils
  • Heavy physical activity
  • Excess salt
  • Dairy products

What are the early symptoms of pneumonia?

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Common signs and symptoms of pneumonia are coughing along with mucus or blood, the 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.

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What causes Pneumonia ?

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.

Is Pneumonia contagious?

Pneumonia can or cannot be contagious, it spread merely depending on the root cause. If the Pneumonia is caused by bacteria or viruses it is highly contagious and can be easily spread through humans, contaminated food or water, or air you breathe in. On the other hand, if the virus is spread through fungi it is not contagious at all.

Who are at risk of 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.

How to diagnosis pneumonia?

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.

What is the treatment for pneumonia?

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.

What is the best antibiotic to treat Pneumonia?

Antibiotics only work in case your infection is bacterial or viral. Here is the list of antibiotics that one may be prescribed after a complete diagnosis:

  • For infants and children: amoxicillin, macrolides, ampicillin, penicillin G., cephalosporin, beta-lactam, Vancocin, or clindamycin.
  • For adults and senior citizens: Vancocin, Zyvox, beta-lactam, antipseudomonal fluoroquinolone, macrolide, Levaquin, Rocephin, doxycycline, amoxicillin, tetracycline, Zithromax, or Vibramycin.

Note: the duration, quantity, and type of medication are chosen as per an individual diagnosis. It is advised to consult a doctor and not to self-medicate oneself.

How long does it take for lungs to heal after Pneumonia?

The recovery period of Pneumonia depends on an individual severity of infection and immunity. Some may show complete signs of recovery within a week while others can also take a month to recover. It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle for a speedy recovery.

How do I know if I have Pneumonia or a cold?

While you may have a blocked nose or cough alongside fever during a common cold, Pneumonia may give you the same but in a very escalated manner. You may feel chest Sharp or stabbing chest pain, fatigue, bluing of nails and lips, blood in cough, and other serious symptoms which can make you feel something serious happened.

How do you sleep when you have Pneumonia?

To give yourself adequate rest, sleep is important, especially when your body is infected. During Pneumonia, one may feel chest discomfort and breathlessness. You can use these two sleeping positions as per your preference:

  • Spooning: Keep your back straight while lying on one side, keep one pillow under your head and one between your legs making sure it is perfectly lifted.
  • Straight sleep: keep your back on the mattress straight while keeping one pillow under your head. Don't forget to bend your knees and put a pillow underneath.

What are the complications of pneumonia?

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.

What are ways to prevent pneumonia?

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.

What are the home remedies for pneumonia?

If a person experience symptoms of pneumonia, then some home remedies can be used to care for and control the condition. A proper diet with adequate rest at home can help in managing this condition.

Use of peppermint, eucalyptus, 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 a powerful anti-inflammatory agent for chest pain.

Summary: Pneumonia can be described as a lung infection that can cause yellowing of the lungs. There is no treatment plan available to cure the diseases, so its course of treatment merely depends on individual immunity and vaccination. The infection can be spread through different modes. Its infection takes 4 phases to flush out of our bodies, which can take a week or a month to completely heal.

References

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Written ByDr. Mool Chand GuptaMD - Pulmonary,MD PULMONARY,DTCDPulmonology
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