A Comprehensive Guide to Pneumonia

Pneumonia is one of the common illnesses affecting individuals in America and other countries. By medical definition, pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung tissues whereby the air sacs of one or both of the lungs, referred to as alveoli, fill up with pus or fluid, making it hard to breathe. Here are a few basic facts about pneumonia


Types and Causes of Pneumonia

The main types of pneumonia can be classified according to the cause of the infection, how it was acquired, and where it was transmitted. Here is a quick look at the major types of pneumonia:

  • Bacterial Pneumonia- The main cause of bacterial pneumonia is a bacteria called streptococcus pneumoniae. Others include Haemophilus influenzae and Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Viral Pneumonia- This infection is caused by the virus that also causes colds and the flu. This is mostly a mild kind of pneumonia that commonly affects kids younger than five years. However, it can get serious if not treated in time.
  • Fungal pneumonia- This infection is most prevalent in persons with a weak immune system and chronic health conditions. The fungi that causes it is found in soil and bird droppings
  • Hospital Acquired Pneumonia- This type f pneumonia develops during a hospital stay, and mainly affects people who are on breathing machines in intensive care units. This pneumonia is quite dangerous because the bacteria causing it might be resistant to antibiotics, considering that they are already sick.
  • Aspiration Pneumonia- Individuals catch this infection when they inhale food, drink, vomit or saliva into their lungs. It commonly affects people with swallowing problems, brain injury, or excessively use alcohol or drugs.

Symptoms of Pneumonia

The extent of pneumonia signs and symptoms varies from mild to severe depending on various factors such as overall health status, age and the kind of germ causing the infection. The most common symptoms include a cough that might produce phlegm; chest pain; fever and chills; unusually low body temperatures especially in adults aged more than 65 years and persons with a weak immune system; difficulties in eating and breathing especially in infants; fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea among many others.

Persons at a Higher Risk of Catching Pneumonia

Anyone can catch pneumonia, but children aged two years and below and individuals aged 65 years and above are at a greater risk of getting the disease. People with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart failure are also at a high risk. Similarly, people who smoke, drink excessive alcohol or misuse illicit drugs risk catching pneumonia easily. Basically, it mostly affects individuals with a weak immune system due to age, serious health conditions or unhealthy lifestyle.

Pneumonia Treatment

Treatment depends on the type of pneumonia, the severity of the infection and the patient’s overall health status. Here are the most common treatment methods:

  • Prescribed Treatment- The doctor may prescribe antibiotic, antifungal or antiviral drugs. Bacterial pneumonia is treated with oral antibiotics, and most patients recover within three days. The physician may also prescribe over the counter drugs to relieve pain, fever, and coughs.
  • Home Remedies- These include getting enough rest and drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Hospitalization- Severe cases of pneumonia may need hospitalization to allow close monitoring by the doctor. Respiratory therapy, intravenous antibiotics, and oxygen therapy are some of the treatment methods administered during the hospital stay.

Prevention of Pneumonia

Like most illnesses, pneumonia is preventable. The easiest way to prevent pneumonia is through vaccination. Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23 are the two pneumonia vaccines available in the USA. Additionally, upholding hygiene standards and maintaining a healthy lifestyle also reduce the rate of catching pneumonia significantly. Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and washing hands regularly and appropriately help to prevent the transfer of germs to others. Likewise, quitting smoking and alcohol abuse helps protect the lungs from infections that may make the body more susceptible to pneumonia.

It is prudent to see a doctor for proper diagnosis whenever one experiences the possible signs of pneumonia. For individuals with a weak immune system, it is advisable to avoid close contact with those who have pneumonia until they feel better.