Pneumonia refers to the infection affection one or both the lungs. The infection can cause inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs. As a result, the air sacs fill with fluid or pus (purulent material). It can trigger several symptoms in your body, including cough (with pus or phlegm), trouble breathing, fever, and chills. The severity of the disease can range from mild to life-threatening. In most cases, the age of the person affected determines the severity. So, young and old people need to maintain caution. People with the weakened immune system are also prone to the infection.
What Is Pneumonia?
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Infection causing fluid or pus to fill in the alveoli is known as pneumonia. Bacteria, virus or fungus can cause the problem. The germs resulting in the lung infection are contagious. So, it can spread from one person to another and result in lung infection. In both viral and bacterial pneumonia, the condition can spread through inhalation of droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person. It is a serious problem that needs immediate attention. The problem can escalate and cause life-threatening complications. So, you need to get assistance from your doctor as early as possible.
Symptoms Of Pneumonia
You can experience the signs of lung infection depending on the severity of the issue, the exact type of germ triggering the infection, your age, and overall health. In most cases, the mild cases of the problem have symptoms similar to flu or cold. The only difference is that the signs tend to last for a longer time. The common signs associated with the problem are:
- Chest pain during breathing
- Cough that produces phlegm
- Pain in the chest during coughing
- Changes in awareness (it is seen in older people)
- Fever or chills
- Excess sweating
- Low body temperature (in people with a weakened immune system or older people above 65 years of age)
- Shortness of breath
Signs Of Pneumonia In Children
Newborns or infants can also suffer from a lung infection. They may not show signs at first. But, some children can exhibit the following signs:
- Appear restless
- Feel tired
- Seem exhausted
- Trouble breathing properly
- Difficulty eating food
It is important to see a doctor as you see the signs like fever, breathing trouble or chest pain. You must also consider meeting a doctor if you have a persistent cough and you cough up the pus. People coming under the high-risk group need to see a doctor as soon as the signs appear. Wondering what a high-risk group is. People coming under the following category are known as a high-risk group:
- Adults older than sixty-five years of age
- Children younger than two years of age
- People suffering from serious health issues
- Individuals with a weak immune system
- People taking medication to suppress the immune system
- Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy
People suffering from health complications like heart failure or chronic lung problem can experience life-threatening complications when they suffer from pneumonia. Therefore, getting medical help is advisable to avoid any complications.
Causes Of Pneumonia
Pneumonia affects you due to the germs, which attack your lungs, causing infection and inflammation. In most cases, bacteria or virus can result in lung infection. The bacteria and virus present in the air you breathe can result in the condition. Your body’s immune system prevents the germs from affecting your lungs. But, due to some reasons, the germs can overcome your immune system and attack the germs. It can affect you even without any health complication.
Types Of Pneumonia
Pneumonia is classified into different types based on the germs causing the problem and the specific location you got the infection. The different types are:
It is the common type of lung infection occurring outside of the health care facilities (like hospitals). The main causes of the type of problem are:
It is the common cause of lung infection. Bacteria called streptococcus pneumoniae can affect a person after suffering from cold or flu. In most cases, the bacteria affects the one part or lobe of the lung. It results in the condition known as lobar pneumonia.
Some people can also suffer from infection in the lung caused by bacteria-like organisms. Mycoplasma pneumoniae is one such organism affecting the lungs and causing inflammation. It usually has milder symptoms compared to other types of lung infections. It is also known as walking pneumonia as the person affected by the condition does not need bed rest.
It is the lung infection affected people with chronic health complications or a weakened immune system. It also affects people who have inhaled a large dose of external organisms. You can find fungi in the soil or in bird droppings. Its presence varies depending on the geographical location.
Cold or flu occurring due to the virus can also trigger lung infection. It is a common problem in children who are young. So, children younger than five years of age face the risk of such infections. In usual cases, the infection of the lung caused by a virus can cause mild symptoms. But, in some cases, the issue can become severe.
As the name suggests, you catch the infection during your stay in the hospital for other illnesses. Hospital-acquired pneumonia is serious as the bacteria triggering it has high resistance to antibiotics. It is because the affected people are already sick. The condition is prevalent among patients who are on ventilators (breathing machines) in the intensive care unit.
Health Care-Acquired Pneumonia
It is the type of lung infection caused by bacteria that affects people who live in long-term healthcare facilities. The also affects people receiving care in outpatient clinics like kidney dialysis centers. It is caused by bacteria with more resistance to antibiotics. So, people need to maintain caution.
It is the infection affecting your lungs when you inhale food, drink, saliva or vomit. It mostly occurs when something causes disturbance to your normal gag reflex. So, the following issues can put you at risk of the specific type of pneumonia:
- Excessive alcohol or drug use
- Brain injury
- Swallowing problems
Risk Factors Associated With Pneumonia
Anyone can suffer from a lung infection. But, some people are prone to the problem compared to others. The factors leading to the infection are:
People coming under two age group of people face the highest risk of suffering from the issue. They are:
- Children who are two years or younger
- Old people above 65 years of age
People who are hospitalized for serious illness and stay in the intensive care unit can face more risk of lung infection. It is particularly true for patients who are hooked on a ventilator to breathe properly.
People who suffer from an illness like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), heart disease or asthma face risk of lung disease.
Smoking can harm your health. It can adversely affect your lungs. It also damages your body’s natural ability to fight against bacteria or virus that can cause infection of lungs.
Weak/Suppressed Immune System
Some people have a weak or suppressed immune system due to underlying health conditions. It can result in failure to block the attack of bacteria or virus triggering the lung infection. So, people who suffer from the following need to maintain caution:
- Undergoing chemotherapy
- Use steroids for a long time
- Undergone organ transplant
- Suffer from HIV/AIDS
People coming under the above-mentioned category needs to maintain caution.
When you suspect lung infection or observe signs of respiratory problems, then you need to see a doctor. It is important to get medical assistance as early as possible to prevent severe complications due to the condition. Your doctor performs the following diagnostic tests to confirm the infection in your lungs:
In normal cases, your doctor starts assessing your condition with a thorough physical inspection. You need to tell about your medical history for the doctor to get an idea about your health. During the physical assessment, your doctor uses the stethoscope to listen to the lungs. It can help detect abnormal crackling or bubbling sounds that point towards pneumonia. If your doctor suspects a lung infection, then the doctor recommends further tests.
Blood tests can help confirm the presence of infection.it also aids in the identification of the type of organism causing the infection in your lungs. But, it is not possible to identify precisely the organism triggering the problem.
The imaging test can help your doctor diagnose the condition and its severity. The x-ray image can detect the exact location of infection and its extent. But, the x-ray does not offer information on the type of germ causing the problem.
It is the test that measures the oxygen levels in the blood. When you suffer from pneumonia it prevents the lungs from moving oxygen into the blood. So, the blood lacks enough oxygen. Based on the oxygen levels in the blood, your doctor can detect the problem.
While undergoing the test, a sample of sputum (the fluid from the lungs) is taken for testing. It is retrieved after you cough deeply. It is analyzed in the lab to get the exact cause of infection.
In patients with serious symptoms, severe underlying health problems or older people (more than 65 years of age), you doctor suggest additional tests. The tests can include:
It is suggested when you lung infection odes not clear as quickly as expected by your doctor. CT scan can provide a more detailed image of the lungs compared to x-rays. So, it can help detect any other problem causing the issue.
Pleural Fluid Culture
The medical professional take the fluid sample using a needle. The needle is inserted between the ribs and extracted the fluid from the pleural area. It is analyzed in the lab to detect the exact type of infection.
Based on the diagnosis, your doctor can suggest the best treatment plan that will help heal the problem without causing any serious health complications.
Treatment For Pneumonia
Treatment for lung infection includes eliminating the problem and avoiding any complications. The treatment depends on the type of pneumonia you suffer. People with a mild case of lung infection is easy to treat at home with medications. When you take medications, you can see the easing of symptoms within a few days or weeks. But, you will still feel tired. The tiredness can persist for a month or more. The medication is decided based on your age, overall health, and severity of the symptoms you exhibit. The treatment options include:
It is provided for patients who have bacterial pneumonia. The medicines can kill the bacteria that cause the infection. But, it can take some time to identify the exact type of bacteria resulting in the condition. Based on the type of bacteria, your doctor can prescribe the best antibiotic to cure the infection.
Antiviral medication helps manage the lung infection caused due to the virus. Your doctor can also suggest home care options that will help manage the condition.
As the name suggests, it can treat fungal pneumonia. You need to take the medication for several weeks to get rid of the problem.
Lung infection can result in severe cough. You can see the persistent cough affecting your daily routine. So, your doctor prescribes medication to calm the cough. It helps you rest. But, completely eliminating the cough can result in fluid accumulation. Coughing loosens and moves fluid from the lungs. So, the doctor can suggest a low dose of cough suppressant to offer rest.
Reduce Fever And Pain
Lung infection can result in fever and pain. So, your doctor can suggest taking one of the following medication to offer relief from pain and fever:
Severe cases of lung infection need immediate medical attention. So, your doctor can suggest you at the hospital for treatment. The doctors can keep track of your breathing, temperature, and heart rate. The treatments in the hospital include:
- Injecting intravenous antibiotics. It will help clear the infection swiftly.
- Respiratory therapy that delivers prescribed medication directly into the lungs. The therapy can also teach you to perform breathing exercise to increase the oxygen levels in the blood.
- Oxygen therapy maintains the oxygen levels in the blood. It is received through a face mask, nasal tube, or ventilator depending on the severity of your infection.
Complications Due To Pneumonia
You can experience complications due to lung infection. Some people coming under the high-risk group can experience the problem even with treatment. The possible complications include:
Bacteremia is the condition resulting in the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream. The bacteria enter your blood from the lungs. So, it can spread bacteria to other organs and cause infection. It results in organ failure.
Difficulty To Breathe
In severe cases of pneumonia or you suffer from chronic lung diseases, it causes trouble breathing. It results in trouble getting enough oxygen. Therefore, the condition can result in hospitalization. The doctor can use ventilator (breathing machine) until the lung heals.
Pleural effusion is condition causing fluid accumulation around the pleura. The fluid accumulates around the thin space between the tissue layers that line your chest cavity (pleura) and lungs. When the fluid becomes infected, it can cause severe complications. You need a doctor’s assistance to drain the fluid through a chest tube. In some cases, the condition needs surgery to drain the fluid.
Abscess formation is another complication arising due to lung infection. The pus formation in the lung cavity is known as an abscess. Your doctor treats the condition with antibiotics. But, when it fails to offer relief, then doctors can drain the pus using long needles or tube placed in the abscess. For more severe cases, surgery removes the pus accumulation.
Since pneumonia can cause severe complications, you need to get proper treatment at the right time to manage the condition effectively.
In most of the cases, you can prevent infection of the lungs. You can take the following steps to ensure the condition does not affect you or your children.
Vaccinations are available to prevent flu and some types of pneumonia. People who have not received the specific vaccination in their childhood can talk to their doctor about getting the shots. The guidelines of vaccination have changed as time has progressed. Therefore, you need to talk to your doctor about the review status of your vaccination. It will help you determine if you need the vaccine shots even after receiving it previously.
You need to ensure your child gets vaccinated to prevent the infection in the lungs. The vaccination suggested for children below two years of age and of ages two to five are different. Children at risk of the pneumococcal disease need to get a vaccination to prevent the condition. Doctors also suggest taking flu shots for children older than six months. Based on the age and health condition, your doctor can select from the following vaccinations:
- Pneumovax 23
- Prevnar 13
- Hib Vaccine
- Flu Vaccine
Remember, the vaccination may not prevent the condition from affecting you or your children. But, getting the vaccinated can ensure you suffer only milder and shorter illness. The risk for complication also lowers due to the vaccination.
To protect yourself from the different respiratory infections, you need to practice good hygiene. It can reduce your risk of lung infection. Wash your hands with soap and water regularly. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill the germs on your hands that put you at risk of infections.
Smoking can weaken your lungs and make you susceptible to infections. It can lower the body’s natural defenses to the respiratory problem, including pneumonia. So, quit the bad habit.
Healthy Immune System
You need to strengthen your immune system. It will help prevent respiratory problems. You need to follow the pointers suggested below to keep your immune system strong:
- Get good sleep. Sleeping for at least six to eight hours a day without interruption can keep you healthy.
- Eat a well-balanced diet rich in minerals and nutrients that can keep your body fit.
- Include physical exercise. Exercising for at least thirty minutes every day can prevent illness and other problems.
In people with pneumonia, the condition can improve within three to five days of getting treatment. But, you will feel exhausted and have a mild cough for some time. Severe cases require hospitalization to see improvement. But, it is important that the elderly and people with severe illness seek immediate medical attention. Else, the lung infection can cause fatal complications. With proper medical attention and care, you can get back to your normal life within no time.View Article Sources