Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the air sacs of the lungs. When this happens, the air sac may have fluid or pus in it. Symptoms include coughing up mucus or pus, chills, fever, and difficulty breathing. Pneumonia usually begins from microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
This infection can go from being mild to a life-threatening disease. Pneumonia can affect any age bracket, but it has a higher risk of affecting infants, those older than 65, and people with frail immune systems/underlying health conditions. Annually, about 1 million people in the United States receive treatment, and around 50,000 people die from this infection.
Types of Pneumonia
Knowing the different types of pneumonia will help you treat it. The types are categorized by where you got them from and the microorganism that initiated them.
This type is contracted during a stay in a hospital. It can be severe because the bacteria causing hospital pneumonia has resistance to antibiotics. It is primarily obtained when a person is breathing with the aid of a machine or has a weak immune system.
Community pneumonia happens when bacteria, viruses, and fungi are found around you or in areas you may be. Getting vaccines helps protect against some bacteria and viruses that can potentially cause pneumonia.
This is also a form of community pneumonia that occurs when you ingest infected foods or fluids. Bacteria multiply in the lungs if you cannot cough out the substance taken in.
Pneumonia is also categorized depending on whether a virus, bacteria, or fungus is responsible for it.
Bacteria are responsible for most occurrences of community pneumonia in older people. It can be transferred when an infected person sneezes or coughs. You become infected by breathing in this bacteria-saturated air. A less severe bacterial pneumonia is walking pneumonia. Its symptoms are fever, cough, and headache.
The second most common cause of pneumonia is viruses. These viruses are also responsible for some of the diseases that bring the flu and cold.
A healthy person is not likely to get fungal pneumonia because fungi are a rare cause of pneumonia. The exceptions are with people who have an impaired immune system, due to factors like an organ transplant, HIV, chemotherapy, and treatment for autoimmune disease. A person contracts this pneumonia by breathing in particles known as fungal spores.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
The symptoms of pneumonia vary from simple to complex, depending on the microorganism causing the infection and the person’s health. Some common ones include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue and weakness
- Regularly coughing up phlegm
- Chest pain during coughing or breathing
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Shaking chills
- Confusion or delirium
Diagnosis of Pneumonia
Doctors may suspect that a person has pneumonia if they hear crackling, wheezing, or coarse breathing. Your doctor may recommend the following tests if they suspect you have pneumonia:
- Chest X-Ray: This confirms the diagnosis, revealing which part of the lungs is affected. Nevertheless, it can’t tell what microorganism caused the disease.
- Blood Test: They are used to validate a diagnosis and help identify the type of germ causing the infection.
- Pulse Oximetry: This measures the level of oxygen in the blood.
- Sputum Test: This identifies the cause of the infection. This test is performed by taking a sample of the fluid coughed up from your lungs.
How to Treat Pneumonia
Treatment depends on the type and complexity of pneumonia, where:
- Antibiotics treat bacterial pneumonia.
- Getting plenty of rest and hydration helps to treat viral pneumonia. The antiviral medication also helps in alleviating it.
- Antifungal medication treats fungal pneumonia.
Doctors usually recommend over-the-counter medications to help reduce or clear the symptoms of pneumonia. These medications reduce fever, aches, and pain, while also suppressing coughs. In treating pneumonia, it is advisable to drink plenty of water to thin out the thick mucus, allowing you to cough more easily.
How to Manage Pneumonia
Some lifestyle choices can reduce or eliminate the risk involved with pneumonia. For example, drinking a lot of alcohol or taking certain drugs can increase the risk of aspiration pneumonia. Drinking a lot of water is also a way to manage the infection. Sitting properly while eating should be a habit too. See your doctor if you feel that your food or medications are constantly going down the wrong pipe. Also, practice proper oral and dental hygiene.
- What is the recovery period for pneumonia? People with a weak immune system can take several weeks to recover, while healthy people take 1 to 3 weeks.
- Can I contract pneumonia? Anyone can contract it by inhaling the particles saturated in the air when someone nearby with it coughs or sneezes.
- Can pneumonia affect my respiratory system? Microorganisms invade the alveoli (air sacs), causing inflammation. This reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the blood, making it difficult to breathe.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!