What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a condition in which the tissue in one or both lungs swells (inflammates). A bacterial infection is generally to blame. A virus, such as the coronavirus, can potentially cause it (COVID-19).
Causes of Pneumonia
Pneumonia is caused by:
A bacterial infection.
Other kinds of pneumonia, in addition to bacterial pneumonia, are:
Aspiration pneumonia – caused by breathing in vomit, a foreign object, such as a peanut, or a harmful substance, such as smoke or a chemical fungal pneumonia – rare in the UK and more likely to affect people with a weakened immune system
Hospital Acquired Pneumonia – pneumonia that develops while a patient is being treated for another illness or undergoing surgery; patients in intensive care who are on breathing machines are especially vulnerable to ventilator-associated pneumonia.
Image source: NHLBI
Pneumonia symptoms might appear quickly over a period of 24 to 48 hours, or they can appear gradually over several days.
The following are some of the most common pneumonia symptoms:
I. a Cough that is either dry or produces thick yellow, green, brown, or blood-colored mucus (phlegm)
II. Breathing problems – Even when resting, your breathing may be rapid and shallow, and you may feel short of breath.
III. You may also have a Rapid heartbeat, a high temperature, and a general feeling of being unwell, as well as sweating and shivering.
IV. Chest pain that gets worse when you cough or breathe
Symptoms that are less prevalent include:
- blood is coughed up (haemoptysis)
- wheeze joint and muscle ache
- feeling unwell or being sick
- feeling befuddled and disoriented, especially among the elderly
Groups at Risk of Developing Pneumonia
Pneumonia is more likely in the following groups:
I. Babies and small children
III. People who smoke
IV. People who have asthma, cystic fibrosis, or a heart, kidney, or liver disease.
V. Those with a reduced immune system — for example, as a result of a recent illness like the flu, HIV or AIDS, chemotherapy, or taking medication after an organ transplant
By talking about your symptoms and evaluating your chest, a doctor may be able to diagnose pneumonia.
In some circumstances, additional testing may be required.
Because it has many symptoms with other illnesses including the common cold, bronchitis, and asthma, pneumonia can be difficult to diagnose.
A doctor may ask you the following questions to aid in the diagnosis:
- how long you’ve had your cough and
- whether you’re coughing up mucus and
- what color it is if you’re coughing up mucus
- if your chest discomfort gets worse when you breathe in or out
A doctor may also take your temperature and use a stethoscope to listen to your chest and back for any crackling or other abnormalities.
Mild pneumonia can usually be treated at home using the following methods:
I. Getting enough sleep
II. If the pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics should be taken and
III. Enough of fluids should be consumed.
If you don’t have any other health issues, you should respond well to treatment and recover quickly, but your cough may linger.
Pneumonia can be severe in at-risk groups, necessitating hospitalization.
This is because, depending on a person’s health and age, it might produce major consequences, which can be fatal in certain situations.
Rest, medications (if a bacterial infection is suspected), and plenty of fluids are usually enough to cure mild pneumonia at home. Severe instances may necessitate hospitalization.
Even if you feel better, you should always finish a prescribed course of antibiotics unless a healthcare expert instructs you otherwise.
If you stop taking an antibiotic in the middle of a course, the bacteria may develop resistance to it.
Your symptoms should gradually improve when you begin medication.
However, how quickly they recover will be determined by the severity of your pneumonia.
As a rule of thumb:
– After a week, the elevated temperature should have subsided.
– After 4 weeks, your chest pain and mucus production should be significantly reduced.
– After 6 weeks, your cough and dyspnea should be much reduced.
– 3 months – the majority of symptoms should have subsided, but you may still be exhausted (fatigue)
– After 6 months, most folks will feel normal again.
It’s possible that your symptoms will not improve if:
I. Antibiotic-resistant microorganisms are causing the infection – A physician may prescribe a different antibiotic or a second antibiotic to take with the first
II. The infection is caused by a virus rather than bacteria — antibiotics have no effect on viruses, therefore your immune system will have to create antibodies to combat the viral illness.
Pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen can aid with pain relief and fever reduction.
Ibuprofen should not be used if you have any of the following conditions:
i. have asthma,
ii. kidney disease,
iii. a history of stomach ulcers, or indigestion and
iv. are allergic to aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs).
Cough medicine is not advised because there is little proof that it works. Coughing can be relieved by consuming a warm honey and lemon beverage.
After you finish your treatment, your cough may last 2 to 3 weeks. As your body recovers, you might feel fatigued for even longer.
Avoid dehydration by drinking enough of water and getting plenty of rest to help your body recover.
It’s more vital than ever to quit smoking since it harms your lungs.
Hospitalization for treatment
If your symptoms are severe, you may need hospital treatment.
If your pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection, you should get antibiotics as soon as possible.
If the cause is considered to be a virus, such as coronavirus, you will likely not be given antibiotics. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections.
You may also be given intravenous fluids via a drip, and you may require oxygen to help you breathe.
Breathing assistance via a ventilator in an intensive care unit (ICU) may be required in severe instances of pneumonia.
Pneumonia due to aspiration
If you’ve inhaled something that’s causing pneumonia, it may be necessary to remove it.
Pneumonia complications are more likely in young children, the elderly, and people who have pre-existing health issues like diabetes.
Pneumonia can cause the following complications:
I. Pleurisy is an inflammation of the thin linings between your lungs and ribcage (pleura), which can cause respiratory failure.
II. Lung abscess – a rare but significant complication that usually occurs in patients who have a serious pre-existing illness or a history of heavy drinking
III. Blood poisoning (sepsis) – another rare but serious problem
If you suffer one of these issues, you will be admitted to the hospital for treatment.
Although most occurrences of pneumonia are bacterial and do not transmit from person to person, maintaining proper cleanliness will help to prevent germs from spreading.
You should, for example:
1. When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a cloth or tissue.
2. Immediately discard used tissues — germs can survive for several hours after they leave your nose or mouth.
3. To avoid spreading germs to other people or objects, wash your hands frequently.
4. In addition to a healthy lifestyle, pneumonia can be avoided by following certain guidelines. For instance, you should quit smoking since it harms your lungs and raises your risk of infection.
5. Excessive and long-term alcohol abuse harms your lungs as well.
Around 6 weeks after you begin your antibiotic treatment, the doctor will likely schedule a follow-up appointment for you.
They may request additional testing, such as a chest X-ray, in some circumstances if:
- Your signs and symptoms have remained unchanged.
- Your ailment has returned.
- If you’re over 50 and a smoker.
Following their recovery from pneumonia, some people may be encouraged to get a flu shot or a pneumococcal vaccine.