What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid (purulent material), causing a cough with phlegm (a slimy substance from deep in your lungs) or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.
What causes Pneumonia?
Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections can cause pneumonia.
Bacteria are the most common causes. Bacterial pneumonia can occur on its own and can also develop after you’ve had certain viral infections, such as a cold or the flu.
Viruses that infect the respiratory tract may cause pneumonia.
Viral pneumonia is often mild and goes away on its own within a few weeks. Sometimes it is serious enough that you need to get treatment in a hospital. If you have viral pneumonia, you are at risk of also getting bacterial pneumonia.
Fungal pneumonia is more common in people who have chronic health problems or weakened immune systems.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
The symptoms can vary for different groups. These include:
Cough, usually with phlegm
Shortness of breath
Chest pain when you breathe or cough
Nausea and/or vomiting
Sometimes pneumonia can cause serious complications, such as:
Bacteremia: Bacteria move into the bloodstream, it can lead to septic shock.
Lung abscesses: Collections of pus in the cavities of the lungs.
Pleural disorders: These are conditions that affect the pleura, the tissue that covers the outside of the lungs and lines the inside of your chest cavity.
Who is at risk of Pneumonia?
Anyone can get pneumonia, but certain factors can increase your risk:
– Children aged 2 and under, as well as adults aged 65 and up
– Exposure to certain chemicals, pollutants, or toxic fumes.
– Smoking, heavy alcohol use, and malnourishment,
– Having a lung disease
– A weakened immune system
– Coughing or swallowing difficulties as a result of a stroke or another condition.
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.
– Antiviral medicines for viral pneumonia
– Antifungal medicines treat other types of fungal pneumonia
– Quit Smoking
Smoking irritates your lungs and interferes with the normal defenses that protect you against infection. If you quit smoking, your lungs will gradually heal themselves. Your doctor can recommend programs or nicotine replacement systems that can help you successfully quit.
– Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin C should be part of your daily diet. It is found in fruit (strawberries, papaya, and kiwi) and vegetables (peppers, broccoli, and peas). Women should get 75 mg of vitamin C per day, and men should get 90 mg. If you do not consume enough vitamin C in your diet, you may want to talk to your doctor about taking a supplement. Research studies suggest that vitamin C may prevent and treat pneumonia.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is found in almost every cell of the body. It is necessary for proper growth and immune function. If someone is deficient in this mineral, taking a daily zinc supplement may help to reduce the risk of developing pneumonia. Researchers have found that this is especially true for children who live in developing countries. If you want to take zinc or give it to your child, talk to the doctor first to find out if this is a good choice.
Use Precautions to Avoid Infections
Here are some basic steps to help you avoid infection and keep your lungs healthy:
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Avoid being near people who are ill.
- Avoid exposure to toxic or damaging fumes. Exposure to gases, chemicals, air pollution, and secondhand smoke can irritate your lungs and make them more vulnerable to infection.
- Eat a healthful diet. Maintaining good nutrition helps keep your immune system strong.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise can help keep your immune system functioning optimally.
- Do not use (IV) drugs. Using illegal drugs can increase your risk of getting pneumonia, as well as other infectious diseases.
Vaccines can be particularly helpful at protecting you against developing pneumonia:
- Influenza vaccine
- Pneumococcal vaccine
- Haemophilus influenzae vaccine
Influenza vaccine protects you against the types of influenza that are predicted to be in your community during cold season. You should get the flu shot yearly because having influenza puts you at a high risk of developing pneumonia.
Children should receive a series of pneumonia vaccines to prevent specific bacterial infections that cause pneumonia. A different pneumococcal vaccine should be given to adults 65 years and older and to people at risk of pneumonia.
Haemophilus vaccine is given to protect against a specific bacteria that can cause pneumonia or meningitis. This vaccine is given to children who are younger than 5 years old. It is often given to infants starting at 2 months of age.
Written by: Oreoluwa Hassan