Pneumonia is an inflammatory lung disease. It is an infectious disease that affects the alveolar sacs. These sacs fill with a fluid like pus causing cough, difficulty in breathing.
It affects millions of people globally every year; children are the most susceptible to this disease.
What causes Pneumonia?
It is caused by microorganisms like bacteria or viruses, rarely caused by fungi or parasites. Most commonly caused by:
- Bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae isolated from 50% of patients
- Bacteria Haemophilus influenzae isolated from 20% of patients
- Bacteria Chlamydophila pneumoniae isolated from 13% of patients
- Bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae isolated from 3% of patients.
These can be cured by proper medication.
- Virus rhinovirus, influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
They do not have very severe symptoms and can be cured in 2-3 weeks. Medications given in viral cases are usually to subside the inflammation, fever, cold.
- Fungi usually do not cause pneumonia, it may be a result of a weak immune system caused by AIDS, immunosuppressive drugs, etc.
- Fungi like Histoplasma capsulatum, Blastomyces cause pneumonia.
- Some parasites entering our body may infect our lungs like the Ascaris lumbricoides (roundworm). They enter the body through direct contact, from cuts, bruises, infected food items.
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Symptoms of Pneumonia
Following are some major symptoms of Pneumonia:
- Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath
- Fever, shaking, chills
- Sharp chest pain while coughing and breathing
- Nausea, diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
When should one see a doctor??
When the symptoms start turning severe like having a temperature around 102F, excessive coughing, or coughing up the pus.
Is pneumonia contagious??
Yes, pneumonia is contagious. Using the same belongings as the infected person, exchange of air droplets let out while coughing or sneezing, exchange of needles may cause spreading.
Which age group is most susceptible to Pneumonia?
- The children under the age of 5
- Elderly people over the age of 65
- People suffering from disease or have a weak immune system like people taking chemotherapy, or under immunosuppressant drugs.
Does pneumonia have types?
Yes, it can be classified based on where it has been picked up from.
- Community-acquired pneumonia – acquired from outside of a health care institution.
- Health-care-associated pneumonia – infection picked up from a hospital, nursing home, or healthcare institution. These are harmful as they are drug-resistant variants
- Ventilator-associated pneumonia – infection picked when under or using a mechanical ventilator. Mostly seen after 48 hrs of endotracheal intubation.
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4 stages of Pneumonia
- Stage 1: CONGESTION
- It is one of the early stages of pneumonia, it starts showing from 24hrs of contraction of the disease.
- As the bacteria start to multiply the pus fills up the alveolar sacs making lungs heavy and red.
- The alveolar capillaries constrict, the infection reaches the hilum and pleura of the lungs. At this stage the symptoms are heavy breathing, coughing, feeling a heavy chest.
- Stage 2: RED HEPATIZATION
- This stage occurs around the third day of congestion.
- Lungs become filled with pus and fluids becoming airless and red. As the body’s immune starts fighting back the RBCs and white blood cells (WBC’s) start to move towards the lungs filling it; thus the red coloration.
- Symptoms now include: shortness of breath, increased coughing, headache, fatigue, fever, bluing of fingertips and nails as they have less oxygen in the body, confusion is seen in older people.
- Stage 3: GREY HEPATIZATION
- An avascular stage that occurs 2-3 days after the red hepatization.
- The lungs start to turn yellow to grayish in color as the red and white blood cells start to disintegrate inside the lungs.
- Lungs have a pale color.
- The symptoms remain almost the same as before.
- Stage 4: RESOLUTION
- This stage may be termed the recovery stage.
- The immune system kicks up trying to eliminate the bacteria.
- The productive cough continues as it tries to remove the pus and fluid from the lungs.
What happens in the final stages of pneumonia??
The final stages of pneumonia could either lead to getting healthy or worsening.
Symptoms can be heavy breathing, excessive coughing, being more anxious, extensive fatigue. If good care is taken and medication timely taken pneumonia leads towards recovery.
Is Pneumonia curable??
Yes, it is curable by taking an antibiotic routine. Medication helps with various symptoms of pneumonia.
Treatment for Pneumonia
It can be done by:
- Prescribed medications:
- An antibiotic routine given by the doctor helps fight the bacteria. The whole antibiotic routine should be continued if one feels better this helps the body to build a good immune defense against the said disease.
- Medications not only reduce bacterial growth but help reduce temperature, bring back appetite, reduce inflammation.
- Home remedies:
- Tea or hot turmeric beverage can be consumed as it eases the throat from coughing.
- Enough sleep and relaxation help keep the temperature under control relieving the fatigue.
- Gargling with salt mixed hot water can be done to reduce soreness of the throat, reviving tonsils, and killing harmful bacteria.
- In severe cases hospitalization becomes necessary.
- Due to severe breathlessness oxygen therapy and respiratory therapy can be given to help to breathe and to replenish reduced oxygen.
- Antibiotics can be given intravenously to patients where swallowing is not possible or the person is unconscious for very long hours.
Does pneumonia have a vaccine?
Yes, pneumococcal vaccines exist. As this disease is common in kids aging 2 and more and adults above the age of 65, they are recommended to take this vaccine.
The vaccines are namely: (In US)
- Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine or PCV13
- Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine or PPSV23.
Is Covid different from Pneumonia?
Covid 19 is somewhat similar to viral pneumonia. They both affect the lungs, cause fever, fatigue, chills, shortness of breath, cough.
As the covid symptoms majorly vary from mild to major, mild pneumonia may be present in some cases.
Pneumonia is curable and the right medications can help. We must take care to not expose ourselves to very cold environments as they may trigger the disease. It is important to not panic and visit the doctor when one sees the symptoms getting worse.
Precaution is always better than cure.