Pneumonia affects and inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The condition causes the air sacs to be filled with fluid or pus (purulent material), making the person to coughing with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.
Pneumonia occurs due to different organisms like bacteria, viruses and fungi. The condition may vary in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. It especially becomes severe with infants, young children, people older than age 65 and those facing other health problems or weakened immune systems.
Understand the symptoms
The symptoms of pneumonia may differ from mild to severe, based on the factors like the type of germ leading to the infection, the person's age and overall health. Mild signs and symptoms often are related to cold or flu, but these last longer.
The person with pneumonia can have chest pain during breathing or cough, experience confusion or changes in mental awareness in adults over 65 years and older and cough that produces mucus. Other signs are fatigue, fever, sweating and shaking, chills, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea and lower than regular body temperature (in adults over age 65 or people with weak immune systems).
Newborns and infants may not show the signs of the disease, and sometimes they may vomit, have a fever and cough, look restless or tired without energy, or experience difficulty breathing and eating.
Consult the doctor
Get medical attention when you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, persistent cough with pus, fever of 102 F (39 C) or higher.
People in the high-risk groups like adults over 65 or those with an underlying health condition or weakened immune system. Also, people receiving chemotherapy or taking medications that suppress the immune system and children younger than age 2 with signs and symptoms.
Pneumonia may become a life-threatening condition for older adults and people with heart failure or chronic lung problems.
Know the causes
Several germs like bacteria and viruses can cause pneumonia. The body usually stops these germs from infecting the lungs, but sometimes the germs defeat the immune system.
The types of germs determine the kind of pneumonia, such as:
This infection happens outside of hospitals or other health care facilities, usually caused by:
• Bacteria. This begins on its own or after having a cold or the flu, affecting one part (lobe) of the lung, a condition known as lobar pneumonia.
• Bacteria-like organisms. Mycoplasma pneumonia has milder symptoms than other kinds, and the condition may not require bed rest.
• Fungi. It occurs in people with chronic health problems or weakened immune systems, or those who have inhaled large doses of the organisms. The fungi seen in soil or bird droppings causes this type of pneumonia but may differ based on geographic location.
• Viruses, including COVID-19. Certain viruses, including COVID-19, may lead to cold and the flu resulting in pneumonia. Children younger than five years have pneumonia due to viruses, but usually, viral pneumonia is mild; only a few cases may become severe. Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) may lead to pneumonia, which may get serious.
People may be affected with pneumonia during a hospital stay due to another illness. Hospital-acquired pneumonia may be severe due to bacteria. People would be more resistant to antibiotics as they are already affected by some diseases. People on breathing machines (ventilators) are at higher risk.
Health care-acquired Pneumonia
People living in long-term care facilities and others that receive care in outpatient clinics, including kidney dialysis centers, are prone to this bacterial infection and are more resistant to antibiotics.
Aspiration pneumonia happens when you inhale food, drink, vomit or saliva into the lungs. It occurs when something disrupts your normal gag reflex, like a brain injury, swallowing problem or excessive use of alcohol or drugs.
Recognise the risk
Children below two years and people over age 65 are more prone to this condition. Also, those hospitalised in the intensive care unit, especially on a ventilator, are at risk. People suffering from heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or asthma, and those who smoke and have a weakened immune system are more likely to have pneumonia.
Pneumonia, especially in high-risk groups, may get complicated, with conditions such as:
• Bacteria in the bloodstream (bacteremia). Bacteria gets into the bloodstream from the lungs and spreads the infection to other organs, causing organ failure.
• Difficulty in breathing. Severe pneumonia or chronic underlying lung diseases result in breathing difficulty, requiring the patient to be hospitalized and even be on a ventilator until the lung heals.
• Fluid accumulation around the lungs (pleural effusion). Pneumonia causes fluid to form in the narrow space between layers of tissue that line the lungs and chest cavity (pleura). When this fluid is infected, you will need to get it drained through a chest tube or removed with surgery.
• Lung abscess. An abscess happens when pus forms in a cavity in the lung, which is treated with antibiotics. In some cases, surgery or drainage with a long needle or tube placed into the abscess is required to extract the pus.
Measures for prevention
These tips can help prevent pneumonia:
• Vaccination. Get vaccinated to restrict the occurrence of certain types of pneumonia and the flu. Talk with the doctor about the vaccination guidelines before taking a pneumonia vaccine. Even kids below two years and children should get vaccinated, get doctors advice.
• Follow proper hygiene. Handwashing at regular intervals and using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with soap and water is not available is the critical step to protect yourself against respiratory infections that may lead to pneumonia.
• Quit smoking. Smoking damages the lungs' which is a natural barrier against respiratory infections.
• Build your immune system. A strong immune system helps stay healthy, so get timely sleep, exercise regularly and eat a healthy meal.