Have you had chest pain and a cough for more than weeks now? If yes, you might have pneumonia, which is an infectious disease that causes inflammation in the lungs. Pneumonia can easily transfer from one person to another, which makes it contagious and in case of severe symptoms, it can lead to serious health conditions or even death too.
Keep reading this article to learn about pneumonia.
Pneumonia is an infectious disease that affects your lungs and causes inflammation in the air sacs (which makes it harder for you to breathe). When you have pneumonia, your air sacs (which are also known as alveoli) are filled with pus or fluid making it harder for you to breathe. It is caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi and is easily transferable. Anyone can get this disease but children below the age of 2 and people over the age of 65 have a higher chance of getting this infection. In fact, pneumonia caused fatality in 14% (around 740,180 children) below the age of 5 in 2019.
So, it is important that you note the symptoms and get early treatment to avoid further complications.
There are 4 types of pneumonia (based on where you get the infection). These include:
- Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP):
This type of pneumonia is acquired by bacteria when you stay in the hospital. It is more dangerous than other types because bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.
- Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP):
This type of pneumonia infection is acquired outside the medical facilities or institute setting. It can be caused by bacteria, bacterial organisms, viruses, and fungi.
- Ventilator-acquired pneumonia (VAP):
As the name implies, this type of pneumonia is acquired when a patient has been put on a ventilator.
- Aspiration Pneumonia:
This type of pneumonia happens when a person inhales bacteria into the lungs from food, drink, or saliva. Chances are more of getting this infection are more if you have a swallowing problem or you are sedated by medication, alcohol, or by drugs.
There are other types too, but these are the common ones that are mostly found in people.
Pneumonia happens when harmful germs enter your body and cause an infection. These types of germs attack the lungs. Lungs are made up of small air sacs, which move the air in and out and help the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide with blood. These germs create inflammation in the air sacs (also known as alveoli) making pus or fluid in them. Which develops pneumonia symptoms like difficulty breathing, coughing, vomiting, etc. The germs that cause pneumonia can be viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Bacterial pneumonia: The most common bacterial cause is Streptococcus pneumoniae which affects mostly children. Other bacterial causes include:
- Mycoplasma pneumoniae
- Hemophilus influenzae
- Legionella pneumonia
Viral pneumonia: The most common viral pneumonia is a respiratory syncytial virus. Other viral causes include:
- human parainfluenza virus (HPIV) infection
- human metapneumovirus (HMPV) infection
- adenovirus infection
- coronavirus infection
- SARS-CoV-2 infection (mostly known as COVID-19)
Although viral infection shows similar symptoms to bacterial pneumonia, they are milder. And viral pneumonia improves within 1 to 3 weeks without treatment.
Fungal pneumonia: Fungi are mostly found in soil or in bird droppings that can cause pneumonia. It mostly affects people who have weak immune systems. Fungi infection that can cause pneumonia:
- Pneumocystis jirovecii
- Cryptococcus species
- Histoplasmosis species
Pneumonia symptoms can range from mild to severe, and sometimes it can be life-threatening too. This includes:
- coughing (that makes it harder to breathe)
- shortness of breath while performing normal activities, even at resting
- chest pain.
- loss of appetite
- nausea or vomiting
Some symptoms that can vary according to your age and overall health, include:
- Infants might have no symptoms at first, but might have vomiting, fatigue, lack energy, and trouble in drinking or eating.
- Children under the age of 5 might have fast breathing.
- Older people might have mild symptoms such as confusion, and lower body temperature.
Whenever you have one or more symptoms, you should visit a doctor of infectious diseases so that you can get a proper diagnosis and know what the problem is.
Pneumonia treatment depends on -the type of pneumonia you have, how severe it is, and the symptoms you develop. In some cases, pneumonia can heal on its own, while sometimes you need to get hospitalized if you are experiencing severe symptoms.
Treatment is given through medications. Antibiotics and over-the-counter medications are used to treat pneumonia. Although sometimes antibiotics do not work on viral or bacterial infections. In that case, the doctor prescribes an antiviral medication to you and home care.
Antifungal drugs are used to treat fungal pneumonia. It can take several weeks to clear the infection. OTC medications are used to relieve your pain or fever if needed. You can use home remedies to manage milder symptoms like cold, cough, headaches, and fever.
In case you are hospitalized because your condition is serious, the doctor gives treatment like injecting antibiotics (in your vein), giving respiratory therapy or oxygen therapy to improve your breathing and maintain oxygen levels in your body.
Pneumonia is an infectious disease that affects the lungs and can be fatal at times. Infants, children, and older people above the age of 65 are at risk of getting affected by this disease. So, it is important to take care of them and try to notice the symptoms if they have any.
Want to know more about how you can prevent pneumonia?
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