Preventing Pneumonia: Symptoms & Precautions
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can range from mild to severe form; in case of the latter, hospitalization may be required. It happens when an infection causes the air sacs in your lungs to fill with fluid or pus, which makes it hard for you to breathe in enough oxygen to reach your bloodstream.
People across all age groups are vulnerable to Pneumonia. But infants younger than the age of 2 and people over the age of 65 are at higher risk; this is because their immune systems may not be strong enough to fight it off.
Lifestyle habits, like smoking cigarettes and drinking too much alcohol, can also raise your chances of getting pneumonia.
Types of Pneumonia:
Bacterial pneumonia is the most common kind and it occurs on its own. It can also develop after you've had certain viral infections such as a cold or the flu. Several different types of bacteria can cause pneumonia, including:
- Streptococcus pneumoniae
- Legionella pneumophila; this pneumonia is often called Legionnaires' disease
- Mycoplasma pneumoniae
- Chlamydia pneumoniae
- Haemophilus influenza
Pneumonia caused by viruses infect the respiratory tract. Viral pneumonia is often mild and goes away on its own within a few weeks. But sometimes, the patient may need critical care in a hospital. If you have viral pneumonia, you are at risk of also being infected with bacterial pneumonia. The different viruses that can cause pneumonia include:
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
- Some common cold and flu viruses
- SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
Fungal pneumonia is more common in people who have chronic health problems or weak immune systems. Some of the types include
- Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP)
- Coccidioidomycosis, which causes valley fever
Symptoms of Pneumonia:
Pneumonia symptoms can vary based on the cause of pneumonia, along with victims' age and overall health condition. The symptoms usually develop over several days. Some of the common pneumonia symptoms include -
- Chest pain when you breathe or cough
- Cough that produces phlegm or mucus
- Fatigue and loss of appetite
- Fever, sweating, and chills
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
Along with these symptoms, older adults and people with weak immune systems might have confusion or go through changes in mental awareness, or they might have a lower-than-usual body temperature.
Newborns and infants may not show any signs of infection. But in some cases, where symptoms do develop, it's usually vomiting, fever and a cough; they might also seem restless or tired.
If you have a new cough, fever, or shortness of breath, call your doctor and get tested to detect if it is a case of COVID-19. Please note that, COVID-19 infection can also lead to pneumonia.
How is pneumonia diagnosed?
Pneumonia may be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms may be mistaken for the common cold or the flu. It may take some time for a victim to realize the underlying cause of the symptoms.
- A medical professional will diagnose your situation through the following -
- Will ask about medical history and symptoms
- Will do a physical exam, including listening to your lungs with a stethoscope
- May conduct tests, including
- Chest x-ray
- Blood tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) to see if your immune system is actively fighting an infection
- Blood culture to find out whether you have a bacterial infection that has spread to your bloodstream.
What are the treatments for pneumonia?
Antibiotics treat bacterial pneumonia and anti-fungals treat fungal pneumonia. They do not work for viral pneumonia. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medicines for viral pneumonia.
You may need to be treated in a hospital if your symptoms are severe or if you are at the risk of developing complications. While admitted, you may get additional treatments. For example, if your blood oxygen level is low, you may receive oxygen therapy. It may take some time to recover from pneumonia. Some people feel better within a week. For other people, it can take a month or more.
To conclude, having good hygiene, not smoking, and having a healthy lifestyle may also help prevent pneumonia.Vaccines are also available to prevent some types of pneumonia and the flu. Talk to your doctor about getting these shots. The vaccination guidelines have changed over time so make sure to review your vaccination status with your doctor even if you recall previously receiving a pneumonia vaccine