What Is Pneumonia And What Causes It
According to the American Thoracic Society, pneumonia is an inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs, usually due to an infection. The infection causes the air sacs to fill up with pus or fluid in the lungs. This makes it more difficult for oxygen to get into your bloodstream. When the infection expands to both lungs, its diagnosed as double pneumonia.
Some people get whats called walking pneumonia which is a milder case of the disease. Often these patients dont realize they have pneumonia because they dont experience shortness of breath or other debilitating symptoms.
Pneumonia is usually caused by a bacteria or virus, but in some cases it can develop due to a parasite or fungus. There are also instances in which patients can get aspiration pneumonia, which can occur when your airways or lung tissue get irritated after food or liquid accidentally get into your lungs.
Treatments To Fight Pneumonia
Different treatments are administered to patients based on the type of pneumonia, the severity of the illness, the age of the patient and other existing medical conditions. Those with a viral form of pneumonia are treated with antiviral medications and helped with shortening the length of illness and symptom management. Bacterial-based pneumonias are treated with a broad spectrum antibiotic followed by a targeted antibiotic when tests pinpoint the type of bacteria causing the infection. The American Lung Association indicates that many people with milder cases can successfully manage their symptoms at home.
Treatment And Medication Options For Pneumonia
A lot of treatment aspects, as well as outcome, depend on the person, as well as the type of pneumonia they have, says Dr. Barron. Sometimes youll be fine just resting, but if you have things like trouble breathing, you should get to a doctor right away.
Your doctor will outline a plan thats specific to you, considering the type of pneumonia you have, the severity of the condition, your age, and your overall health. From there, youll know whether you can be treated at home or need to go to the hospital, and whether you require antibiotics.
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How Is Walking Pneumonia Treated
Walking pneumonia is usually mild, does not require hospitalization and is treated with antibiotics . Several types of antibiotics are effective. Antibiotics that are used to treat walking pneumonia caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae include:
- Macrolide antibiotics: Macrolide drugs are the preferred treatment for children and adults. Macrolides include azithromycin and clarithromycin . Over the past decade, some strains of Mycoplasma pneumoniae have become resistant to macrolide antibiotics, possibly due to the widespread use of azithromycin to treat various illnesses.
- Fluoroquinolones: These drugs include ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin . Fluoroquinolones are not recommended for young children.
- Tetracyclines: This group includes doxycycline and tetracycline. They are suitable for adults and older children.
Often, over-the-counter medications can also be taken to help relieve symptoms of nasal congestion, cough and loosen mucus buildup in the chest. If you have a fever:
- Drink more fluids
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What To Expect By Age And Health
Here is how age can affect your recovery from pneumonia:
- Infants under the age of 6 months are typically hospitalized for pneumonia out of an abundance of caution.
- Children over the age of 6 months are more likely to be treated at home, provided they are typically healthy.
- Older adults may take longer to bounce back from pneumonia since our immune system naturally weakens the older we get, especially if you have a preexisting health condition. Its also more common for the elderly and chronically ill to be hospitalized for pneumonia since the rate of complications and mortality increases for those over the age of 65.
Getting Vaccinated Is Key
Children younger than five are more likely to get pneumonia as well as those aged 65 plus. Older adults are at greatest risk of serious illness and death. Getting a vaccine is an effective way to help prevent getting pneumonia helping to block both viral and bacterial forms.
There are two types of vaccines that can help guard against this serious respiratory disease. Clinicians recommend the PCV13 aka Prevnar 13® or the PPSV23 aka Pneumovax 23® which protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria.
Pneumonia is among the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. and the world. That, combined with the high incidence of COVID-19 cases in our community and heading into peak flu season, is why Dr. Malavé urges his patients to get both the pneumococcal and flu vaccines. He also emphasizes the critical nature of following CDC guidelines that protect against COVID-19 as it will simultaneously protect against catching pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses.
In the past several months, weve seen patients with severe cases of COVID pneumonia. They started to get better and then they got a secondary infection, which included a type of bacterial pneumonia. This happened just as they started to recover from the pneumonia caused by their COVID-19 illness – and unfortunately these scenarios often led to bad outcomes.
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What Are The Treatments For Pneumonia
Treatment for pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia, which germ is causing it, and how severe it is:
- Antibiotics treat bacterial pneumonia and some types of fungal pneumonia. They do not work for viral pneumonia.
- In some cases, your provider may prescribe antiviral medicines for viral pneumonia
- Antifungal medicines treat other types of fungal pneumonia
You may need to be treated in a hospital if your symptoms are severe or if you are at risk for complications. While there, you may get additional treatments. For example, if your blood oxygen level is low, you may receive oxygen therapy.
It may take time to recover from pneumonia. Some people feel better within a week. For other people, it can take a month or more.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From Pneumonia
Pneumonia is a serious illness that can take quite a toll on a persons lungs and body. It can take anywhere from a week to several months to fully recover from it, says Dr. Rayman Lee, pulmonologist at Houston Methodist.
The length of time it takes for you to recover from pneumonia is influenced by:
- Your age
- The severity of your illness
- Whether you have other health conditions
- The type of pneumonia
If youre generally healthy and have only a mild case of pneumonia, your symptoms should begin to improve one to two days after starting treatment.
Most people with mild pneumonia are able to return to their everyday activities in a week, although fatigue and cough can linger for an entire month, says Dr. Lee.
Recovery timelines become more murky for people who have severe pneumonia.
For more serious cases that require hospitalization, were not only focused on clearing the infection, were also focused on preventing or treating complications that can develop including difficulty breathing, fluid buildup in the lungs, sepsis, acute respiratory distress syndrome and lung abscesses, warns Dr. Lee.
Pneumonia and its complications can wreak havoc on a persons lungs and body. And, it can take anywhere from one to six months for a person to recover and regain strength after being hospitalized for pneumonia.
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What Causes Pneumonia In Elderly Adults
Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other organisms. In the U.S., pneumonia in the elderly is usually caused by bacteria or a virus.
Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common type of bacterial pneumonia, affecting more than 900,000 Americans each year, according to the ALA. This type of pneumonia is caused by a germ called Streptococcus pneumoniae. It can occur on its own or after someone has a cold or the flu.
These groups are at increased risk for bacterial pneumonia:
- Adults 65 and older
- People with a weakened immune system
- Patients recovering from surgery
- People with other respiratory conditions or viral infections
Viruses can also cause pneumonia. The influenza virus is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in adults. Pneumonia caused by the influenza virus can be severe and even deadly, especially in people with other health conditions such as heart or lung disease.
Coronavirus disease 2019 can also cause a severe type of double pneumonia that may lead to long-lasting lung damage. It may take several months to recover. Pneumonia associated with COVID-19 can sometimes be fatal, especially in high-risk populations like elderly adults.
Covid Pneumonia: How Long Does Recovery Take
You’re likely familiar with the common, mild symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, dry cough and fatigue.
But, in more severe cases, COVID-19 can also cause serious complications, including pneumonia.
“We still have a lot to learn about COVID-19, particularly about the havoc it can wreak on the lungs and the pneumonia it causes, which is often now called COVID pneumonia,” says Dr. Rayman Lee, pulmonologist at Houston Methodist.
That being said, there’s still plenty that experts like Dr. Lee do know about COVID pneumonia, including about how long it can take to fully recover from it.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Pneumonia
If you have pneumonia, youll have symptoms that are similar to having flu or a chest infection. Symptoms may develop gradually over a few days but can progress much faster.
The main symptom is coughing. You may feel generally unwell, weak and tired, and youll probably have at least one of these symptoms too:
- coughing up mucus that may become yellow or green
- a high temperature you might also sweat and shiver
- difficulty breathing or getting out of breath quicker than normal
- chest pain or discomfort
Even if you have pneumonia, you may not have all these symptoms.
How Is Walking Pneumonia Diagnosed
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, how long youve had them and if any other family members or people you regularly interact with are also ill with similar symptoms. He or she will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal breath sounds. Your doctor may order chest X-rays to see if there is an infection in your lungs. Your blood or mucus might be tested to determine if your pneumonia is caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae, another bacteria, virus or fungus.
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Is Walking Pneumonia Contagious If So How Is It Spread And Who Is Most At Risk
Yes, walking pneumonia caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae is contagious . When an infected person coughs or sneezes, tiny droplets containing the bacteria become airborne and can be inhaled by others who are nearby.
The infection can be easily spread in crowded or shared living spaces such as homes, schools, dormitories and nursing homes. It tends to affect younger adults and school-aged children more than older adults.
The risk of getting more severe pneumonia is even higher among those who have existing respiratory conditions such as:
The symptoms of walking pneumonia may come on slowly, beginning one to four weeks after exposure. During the later stages of the illness, symptoms may worsen, the fever may become higher, and coughing may bring up discolored phlegm .
Critical Care Management Of Covid Pneumonia
Pneumonia may lead to acute hypoxemic respiratory failure, with intensive care unit admissions typically occurring in patients at approximately 712 days after the onset of symptoms . Acute respiratory distress syndrome was seen in 6070% patients admitted to ICU. Data from China and Italy report 59% of patients admitted to hospital are admitted to a critical care environment for organ support . It is important that patient’s preferences for their care should be ascertained after discussion of the risks, benefits and likely outcomes of treatments options available. A meta-analysis published in early 2021 reported a mortality of 35.5% for patients admitted to intensive care , a reduction when compared to a similar analysis in early 2020 when treatments and understanding of the disease were in their infancy .
NHS England recommends CPAP as first-line ventilatory support for hypoxemia in the setting of COVID-19, with NIV reserved for patients with acute on chronic hypercapnic ventilatory failure. Patient tolerance of ventilatory support is a limiting factor which may be improved with low dose benzodiazepines or opioids. In the absence of appreciable improvement using a non-invasive ventilation strategy, early intubation and mechanical ventilation should be considered.
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Can I Prevent Pneumonia
The routine vaccinations that most people receive as kids help prevent certain types of pneumonia and other infections. If you have a chronic illness, such as sickle cell disease, you may have received extra vaccinations and disease-preventing antibiotics to help prevent pneumonia and other infections caused by bacteria.
People should get a pneumococcal vaccination if they have diseases that affect their immune system , are 65 years or older, or are in other high-risk groups. Depending on the bugs that are likely to affect them, these people also may get antibiotics to prevent pneumonia, as well as antiviral medicine to prevent or lessen the effects of viral pneumonia.
Doctors recommend that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu shot. Thats because someone with the flu could then come down with pneumonia. Call your doctors office or check your local health department to see when these vaccines are available.
Because pneumonia is often caused by germs, a good way to prevent it is to keep your distance from anyone you know who has pneumonia or other respiratory infections. Use separate drinking glasses and eating utensils wash your hands often with warm, soapy water and avoid touching used tissues and paper towels.
You also can stay strong and help avoid some of the illnesses that might lead to pneumonia by eating as healthily as possible, getting a minimum of 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night, and not smoking.
People Most Likely To Get Severe Pneumonia
The groups that the CDC identifies as high-risk for pneumonia are the ones we see on a regular basis at University Hospital, says Dr. Malavé. Here in San Antonio we treat a lot of people with underlying conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, smokers and the elderly. He added, These groups are very prevalent in our community and unfortunately these patients tend to get the most severe cases of pneumonia.
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Can Pneumonia Be Prevented
Check with your healthcare provider about getting immunizations. The flu is a common cause of pneumonia. Because of that, getting a flu shot every year can help prevent both the flu and pneumonia.
There is also a pneumococcal vaccine. It will protect you from a common form of bacterial pneumonia. Children younger than age 5 and adults ages 65 and older should get this shot.
The pneumococcal shot is also recommended for all children and adults who are at increased risk of pneumococcal disease due to other health conditions.
Pnemonia: How It Happens
Most of the time, your body filters germs from the air to protect your lungs. Coughing also helps keep them out. If they do get in, your immune system usually fights them off before they make you sick. But if the germ is really strong or your body cant do its part, your lungs can get infected. When your immune system sends cells to attack the germs, your lungs get inflamed, and that leads to pneumonia.
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What Is Walking Pneumonia
Walking pneumonia is a mild form of pneumonia . This non-medical term has become a popular description because you may feel well enough to be walking around, carrying out your daily tasks and not even realize you have pneumonia.
Most of the time, walking pneumonia is caused by an atypical bacteria called Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which can live and grow in the nose, throat, windpipe and lungs . It can be treated with antibiotics.
Scientists call walking pneumonia caused by mycoplasma atypical because of the unique features of the bacteria itself. Several factors that make it atypical include:
- Milder symptoms
- Natural resistance to medicines that would normally treat bacterial infections
- Often mistaken for a virus because they lack the typical cell structure of other bacteria
How Is Walking Pneumonia Different From Regular Pneumonia
Walking pneumonia differs from typical pneumonia in several ways, including:
- Walking pneumonia is a milder form of pneumonia.
- Walking pneumonia usually does not require bed rest or hospitalization.
- Walking pneumonia is usually caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Typical pneumonia is most commonly caused by _Streptococcus _pneumonia or influenza virus or rhinovirus.
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When To Call The Doctor
You should call your childs doctor if your child:
- Has trouble breathing or is breathing much faster than usual
- Has a bluish or gray color to the fingernails or lips
- Is older than 6 months and has a fever over 102°F
- Is younger than 6 months and has a temperature over 100.4°F.
- Has a fever for more than a few days after taking antibiotics
When your child should stay home and return to school or childcare
Are There Treatments For Covid
Clinical trials are looking into whether some drugs and treatments used for other conditions might treat severe COVID-19 or related pneumonia, including dexamethasone, a corticosteroid.
The FDA has approved the antiviral remdesivir for treatment of patients hospitalized with COVID. The drug was origininally developed to treat the Ebola virus.
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