What Is Pneumonia And What Causes It
Pneumonia is caused by a number of factors, including a virus, bacteria, or fungi, along with environmental factors such as inhaling various chemicals and environmental agents. But viruses or bacteria are the biggest culprits. Pneumonia can infect one or both of your lungs, and it causes the air sacs of the lungs or alveoli, to fill up with fluid or pus. Viruses cause about one-third of pneumonia cases in the United States. Influenza, which is more commonly called the flu virus, is a common cause of viral pneumonia in adults.
How Can I Tell If I Have Pneumonia Versus The Common Cold Or The Flu
Do I have a cold or could it be the flu or even pneumonia? Its tough to tell the difference but critical to know when to seek medical care
Watch for these ongoing symptoms that occur in pneumonia:
- Serious congestion or chest pain.
- Difficulty breathing.
- A fever of 102 or higher.
- Coughing that produces pus.
Pneumonia symptoms last longer than cold and flu. If your symptoms arent severe, its okay to try such home remedies as getting more rest, drinking more fluids and taking some over-the-counter medicines and see what happens. But if you dont see improvement in your symptoms after three to five days, or if you are experiencing more serious symptoms such as dizziness or severe difficulty breathing, see your healthcare provider. Dont let it go. Pneumonia-like symptoms in very young children or in adults older than 65 are a cause for concern. Also, pneumonia can cause permanent lung damage if left untreated for too long. And always seek immediate care if you experience chest pain or have breathing difficulties.
What Other Treatments May Be Recommended
Additional treatments that may be used for pneumonia include:
- Fluids. Its important to make sure that you have adequate fluid intake when youre sick with pneumonia. If youre hospitalized, you may receive fluids by IV.
- Oxygen therapy. If youre hospitalized with pneumonia, oxygen therapy may be used to make sure that youre receiving enough oxygen.
- Rest. Getting plenty of rest can help your body respond to the infection. If you must perform daily activities, try not to overdo it and dont hesitate to ask for help, if necessary.
- Use heat and humidity. Drinking warm beverages or broths and using a humidifier may help to loosen mucus in your throat and chest.
- Over-the-counter medications. These can help ease symptoms like fever and discomfort. Examples include things like acetaminophen , ibuprofen , and naproxen .
with an increased risk of hospitalization and mortality when compared to other age groups. Symptoms can also be atypical and can quickly worsen.
Because of this, seeking prompt medical attention is essential in promoting a positive outlook.
The recovery period for pneumonia can vary based on the severity of your illness. Its possible that your symptoms may get better after a period of days or weeks.
However, in some people, the recovery period may be longer.
In order to improve outcome, its important that older adults whove had pneumonia pay close attention to the following during their recovery period:
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What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Pneumonia
Infants and newborns may not show specific symptoms of pneumonia. Instead, the baby or child may appear restless or lethargic. A baby or child with pneumonia may also have a fever or cough or vomit. Older adults or those who have weak immune systems may also have fewer symptoms and a lower temperature. A change in mental status, such as confusion, can develop in older adults with pneumonia.
Disease Process Leading To Pneumonia
Pneumonia-causing agents reach the lungs through different routes:
- In most cases, a person breathes in the infectious organism, which then travels through the airways to the lungs.
- Sometimes, the normally harmless bacteria in the mouth, or on items placed in the mouth or swallowed, can enter the lungs. This usually happens if the body’s “gag reflex,” an extreme throat contraction that keeps substances out of the lungs, is not working properly.
- Infections can spread through the bloodstream from other organs to the lungs.
However, in normal situations, the airways protect the lungs from substances that can cause infection.
- The nose filters out large particles.
- If smaller particles pass through, nerves along the airway prompt a cough or sneeze. This forces many particles back out of the body.
- Tiny particles that reach the small tubes in the lungs are trapped in a thick, sticky substance called mucus. The mucus and particles are pushed up and out of the lungs by tiny hair-like cells called cilia, which beat like a drum. This action is called the “mucociliary escalator.”
- If bacteria or other infectious organisms manage to avoid the airway’s defenses, the body’s immune system attacks them. Large white blood cells called macrophages destroy the foreign particles.
The above-mentioned defense systems normally keep the lungs healthy. If these defenses are weakened or damaged, however, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites can easily infect the lungs, producing pneumonia.
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Are Side Effects Associated With The Pneumonia Vaccine
Side effects of PCV13 in children include drowsiness, temporary loss of appetite, or redness, swelling, or tenderness where the shot was given. Mild fever and irritability are other common side effects. Adults receiving pneumococcal vaccines have reported pain, redness, rash, and swelling where the shot was given also mild fever, fatigue, headache, chills, or muscle pain.
Any type of vaccine has the potential to cause an allergic reaction, which can be severe, but this side effect is rare. This would happen within minutes to a few hours after receiving the vaccine.
What Are Complications Of Pneumonia
There are a number of potential complications of pneumonia. The infection that causes pneumonia can spread to the bloodstream, causing . Sepsis is a serious condition that can result in lowering of blood pressure and failure of oxygen to reach the tissues of the body, resulting in the need for intensive care management. Another complication is the accumulation of fluid in the space between the lung tissue and the chest wall lining, known as a pleural effusion. The organisms responsible for the pneumonia may infect the fluid in a pleural effusion, known as an empyema. Pneumonia can also result in the formation of an abscess within the lungs or airways.
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Why Is Pneumonia Dangerous For The Elderly
Even if your loved one is able to recover from a case of pneumonia, he or she may suffer from long-term effects from the illness. Survivors may be weak mentally and physically. He or she may also have increased symptoms of cardiovascular disease. Overall, the elderly patients quality of life may decline after fighting pneumonia.
Treatment Of Viral Infections
There are not as many choices for treating viral pneumonia. Oseltamivir , zanamivir , and peramivir have been the recommended drugs for influenza A or B infections, but some strains of influenza A are resistant to them. Generally, the use of these drugs is only recommended if they can be started in the first 48 hours of symptoms. Taken early, these medications may be effective in reducing the severity and duration of illness. However, treatment initiated even after 48 hours may benefit children with severe disease.
Intravenous immunoglobulins may be used in immunodeficient children who develop some viral pneumonias, as they have been shown to improve outcomes.
People with viral pneumonias are at risk for what are called “superinfections,” which generally refers to a secondary bacterial infection, usually caused by S pneumoniae, S aureus, or H influenzae. Doctors most commonly recommend treatment with amoxicillin-clavulanate, cefpodoxime, ceftriaxone, cefuroxime, or a newer fluoroquinolone if these secondary infections occur.
People with pneumonia caused by varicella-zoster and herpes simplex viruses are usually admitted to the hospital and treated with intravenous acyclovir for 7 days.
No antiviral drugs have been proven effective yet in adults with RSV, parainfluenza virus, adenovirus, metapneumovirus, coronaviruses, or hantavirus. Treatment is largely supportive, with people receiving oxygen and ventilator therapy as needed.
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Besides Vaccination What Else Can I Do To Prevent Bacterial And Viral Pneumonia
Receiving all recommended vaccinations is one of the best ways to prevent pneumonia. Additionally, there are several other ways to prevent pneumonia, including:
- Quitting smoking, and avoiding secondhand smoke. Smoking damages your lungs.
- Washing your hands before eating, before handling food, after using the restroom, and after being outside. If soap is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoiding being around people who are sick. Ask them to visit when they are feeling better.
- Not touching or sharing objects that are shared with others. Germs can be transferred from object to you if you touch your nose or mouth without washing or sanitizing your hands first.
- Eating a healthy diet, exercise, and get enough rest. Healthy habits keep your immune system strong.
- Getting treated for any other infections or health conditions you may have. These conditions could weaken your immune system, which could increase your chance of infections.
- Avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol.
Questions About Your Symptoms
Bacterial pneumonia, which is the most common form, tends to be more serious than other types of pneumonia, with symptoms that require medical care. The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia can develop gradually or suddenly. Fever may rise as high as a dangerous 105 degrees F, with profuse sweating and rapidly increased breathing and pulse rate. Lips and nailbeds may have a bluish color due to lack of oxygen in the blood. A patient’s mental state may be confused or delirious.
The symptoms of viral pneumonia usually develop over a period of several days. Early symptoms are similar to influenza symptoms: fever, a dry cough, headache, muscle pain, and weakness. Within a day or two, the symptoms typically get worse, with increasing cough, shortness of breath and muscle pain. There may be a high fever and there may be blueness of the lips.
Symptoms may vary in certain populations. Newborns and infants may not show any signs of the infection. Or, they may vomit, have a fever and cough, or appear restless, sick, or tired and without energy. Older adults and people who have serious illnesses or weak immune systems may have fewer and milder symptoms. They may even have a lower than normal temperature. Older adults who have pneumonia sometimes have sudden changes in mental awareness. For individuals that already have a chronic lung disease, those symptoms may worsen.
When to call a doctor
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How Is Pneumonia Spread
Depending on the type, pneumonia can be contagious. As we mentioned earlier, bacteria and viruses, which are contagious, cause most cases of pneumonia. These types of pneumonia can easily spread from one person to the next, mostly through a cough or a sneeze. A doctor can tell you how long youre contagious.
A Prompt Diagnosis For Proper Treatment
If you suspect your loved one may have pneumonia, you should call a doctor right away. Earlier diagnosis can lead to faster treatment that promotes better outcomes especially for seniors who are at a higher risk of developing serious complications.
A doctor will conduct a physical exam and may order imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment will depend on whether the pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses, or other types of infection.
Bacterial pneumonia comes on gradually or suddenly and is typically treated with antibiotics.
Viral pneumonia usually develops over several days and may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, so viral pneumonia is generally treated with supportive care such as increased fluid intake, over-the-counter medications, and rest.
Older adults who experience severe pneumonia symptoms or have other health problems may need to be hospitalized. While in the hospital, treatment may include intravenous antibiotics, respiratory therapy, and oxygen therapy. Doctors will also watch for signs of complications.
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Pneumonia Signs And Symptoms
You may miss the early warning signs of pneumonia. Thats because the infection typically starts with a simple cold. It can also start with upper respiratory infections such as a sore throat, nasal congestion, and cough. And here is where it makes a turn.
You will start to get a high fever and experience shaking chills, along with a cough that produces greenish or yellowish thick mucus or phlegm, which may contain blood. You may also then experience a headache and muscle aches, chest pain, and shortness of breath. It will also zap you of your energy- causing fatigue and weakness and the loss of appetite. Older people may experience confusion.
You may have also heard the phrase walking pneumonia. This milder case of pneumonia feels more like a cold and doesnt typically require bed rest or hospitalization. It is usually treated with over-the-counter medicines. It mostly impacts children 5-years-old and older.
Pneumonia Symptoms In Elders
Pneumonia is an infection of your lungs. There can be swelling or fluid in the air sacs. This can cause trouble with breathing as well as affect energy levels and overall health.
If your loved one is sick, the signs of pneumonia include:
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Is There A Vaccine For Pneumonia
There isnt a vaccine for all types of pneumonia, but 2 vaccines are available. These help prevent pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria. The first is recommended for all children younger than 5 years of age. The second is recommended for anyone age 2 or older who is at increased risk for pneumonia. Getting the pneumonia vaccine is especially important if you:
- Are 65 years of age or older.
- Have certain chronic conditions, such as asthma, lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, sickle cell disease, or cirrhosis.
- Have a weakened immune system because of HIV/AIDS, kidney failure, a damaged or removed spleen, a recent organ transplant, or receiving chemotherapy.
- Have cochlear implants .
The pneumococcal vaccines cant prevent all cases of pneumonia. But they can make it less likely that people who are at risk will experience the severe, and possibly life-threatening, complications of pneumonia.
Aspiration Pneumonia And Anaerobic Bacteria
The mouth contains a mixture of bacteria that is normally harmless. However, if this mixture reaches the lungs, it can cause a serious condition called aspiration pneumonia. This may happen after a head injury or general anesthesia, or when a person takes drugs or alcohol. In such cases, the gag reflex does not work as well as it should, so bacteria can enter the airways. Unlike other organisms that are inhaled, some of the bacteria that cause aspiration pneumonia do not need oxygen to live. These bacteria are called anaerobic bacteria.
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More Severe Cases May Also Cause:
- quick breathing
- rapid heartbeat
- nausea and vomiting
Some people get a sharp pain in their chest when they breathe in and out. This may be because the thin lining between the lung and ribcage, called the pleura, is infected and inflamed. This inflammation, called pleurisy, stops your lungs moving smoothly as you breathe.
The symptoms of pneumonia are often very similar to those of other chest infections, such as bronchitis, COPD flare-ups or bronchiectasis flare-ups. To get a proper diagnosis youll need to visit your GP.
If you feel unwell with these symptoms, see your GP or call 111. If you have chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, quick breathing, shivers or confusion, get urgent advice from your GP or call 999. Take extra care if youre over 65.
Who Are At Risk Of Developing Covid
Some people are at a higher risk for developing COVID-19 pneumonia. It totally depends on the individual’s health conditions. Some of the other risk factors include:
Older adults or adults who are 65 years up are at an increased risk for serious illness due to COVID-19.
#Underlying Health Complications
An individual who is suffering from other health complications such as – asthma, diabetes, liver diseases, obesity, and kidney illnesses is at higher risk of catching COVID-19 pneumonia.
#Weak Immunity System
Another most important risk factor is a weakened immune system. Being immunocompromised can raise the risk of serious COVID-19 pneumonia disease.
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What Health Complications Can Pneumonia Lead To
If you have flu-like symptoms that persist or worsen despite treatment, talk to your doctor.
Your doctor can monitor your lungs while you inhale, listening for crackling sounds that are audible only with a stethoscope.
In order to confirm the diagnosis and identify the specific germ causing the illness, you may get a chest X-ray as well as a blood test, depending on your medical history and physical exam, if your doctor suspects that you have pneumonia.
If left untreated, pneumonia can become severe.
People with severe pneumonia experience higher fevers along with GI symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea, as well as:
- Difficulty breathing