What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a serious infection of the lungs that affects the lungs’ ability to breathe and help remove waste from the body. A person’s chances of getting pneumonia are highest if one or more of them is infected in a different part of the body or somehow from a close friend or relative. Pneumonia can be mild and temporary, even though it can also be very serious and lead to death.
Is pneumonia contagious?
Pneumonia is a contagious disease that can be caused by both viral and bacterial agents. It can spread from person to person through the airborne transmission of tiny particles expelled from the mouth or nose during coughing and sneezing.
Pneumonia can also spread when people touch surfaces (e.g., door *****, food preparation area counters) or objects (e.g., shared vases) contaminated with pneumonia-causing germs. This happens because tiny liquid droplets containing the germs move from the contaminated surface to another surface (indirect contact transmission).
Symptoms of pneumonia
There are different types of pneumonia, ranging from mild to life-threatening. They can include:
• Coughing that produces mucus (phlegm)
• sweating or chills
• causing shortness of breath while doing normal activities or resting
• The pain in your chest gets worse when you cough or breath
• out tiredness or fatigue
• loss of appetite
• nausea or vomiting
In addition to these symptoms, your age and general health can play a role:
• Wheezing or fast breathing may be present in children under 5 years old.
• While infants may exhibit no symptoms, they may vomit, have energy problems, or have trouble drinking and eating.
• The symptoms of older adults are likely to be less severe. Some older adults may also exhibit confusion or a lower body temperature.
Causes of pneumonia
Many types of infectious agents can cause pneumonia.
In most cases of bacterial pneumonia, streptococcus pneumonia is involved. Other causes are:
A common cause of pneumonia is an infection with a respiratory virus. Here are some examples:
· Influenza (flu)
· respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
· rhinoviruses (common cold)
Pneumonia due to a virus is typically milder and improves within one to three weeks without treatment.
Various soil fungi and bird droppings can cause pneumonia. People with weakened immune systems are most susceptible to pneumonia. Among the fungi that can cause pneumonia are:
· Pneumocystis jirovecii
· Cryptococcus species
· Histoplasmosis species
Types of pneumonia
There are also different types of pneumonia based on where they come from or how they are acquired.
Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP)
Bacterial pneumonia of this type is acquired during hospitalization. The bacteria involved may be more resistant to antibiotics, making it more harmful than other types.
Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP)
Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) occurs when a person contracts pneumonia outside a hospital or healthcare setting.
Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP)
In people who use ventilators, pneumonia is called ventilator-associated pneumonia.
Inhaling bacteria from food, drink, or saliva causes aspiration pneumonia. It is more likely to occur if you have a swallowing problem or if you are too sedentary from taking medication, alcohol, or other drugs.
You will receive treatment based on your pneumonia type, severity, and overall health.
If you have pneumonia, your doctor may prescribe medication to treat it. The type of medication you receive depends on why you have pneumonia.
For example, most cases of bacterial pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics taken orally. Take your antibiotics to the end, even if you feel better. Not doing so can prevent the infection from clearing, and it may be more difficult to treat in the future.
Antibiotics do not work on viruses. Sometimes your doctor will prescribe you an antiviral drug. Viral pneumonia often clears up on its own with at-home care, however.
Fungal pneumonia is treated with antifungal medications. Taking these medications for a few weeks may be necessary to cure the infection.
Your doctor may also suggest over-the-counter (OTC) medication reduce your fever and pain, as needed. These may include:
· ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
· acetaminophen (Tylenol)
To calm your cough, your doctor may also prescribe cough medicine. Coughing is important for removing fluid from your lungs, so you don’t want to eliminate it.
Rest and drinking plenty of fluids will help you recover and prevent a recurrence.
You may need to go to the hospital if your symptoms are very severe or you have other health problems. Doctors can monitor your heart rate, temperature, and breathing in the hospital. Hospital treatment may include:
• intravenous antibiotics injected into a vein
• respiratory therapy, in which medications are delivered directly into the lungs or breathing exercises are taught to increase oxygenation.
• Treatment to maintain oxygen levels in the bloodstream (received through a nasal tube, face mask, or ventilator, depending on severity)
Pneumonia risk factors
Pneumonia can affect anyone, but some groups are at a higher risk than others. These groups include:
• children from birth to 2 years old
• seniors 65 and older
• Patients with weakened immune systems due to diseases or medications, such as steroids or certain cancer drugs
• People with chronic conditions like asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, or heart failure should avoid smoking
• Those who have recently had a respiratory infection, such as a cold or the flu
• People who have recently been hospitalized or are currently in the hospital, especially those on a ventilator
• People with strokes, swallowing problems, and immobility
• People who smoke, use certain types of drugs or drink excessively
• People who have been exposed to lung irritants, such as pollution, fumes, and certain chemicals
The majority of people who contract pneumonia respond to treatment and recover. In the same way that your treatment will depend on the severity and type of pneumonia, your recovery time will also be dependent on your general health.
Younger people may feel normal within a week of treatment. However, others may take longer to recover and may experience lingering fatigue. A severe case of chronic fatigue may require several weeks of recovery.
These steps can help you prevent complications during your recovery and allow you to recuperate more efficiently:
Keep to the treatment plan your doctor has developed and take all medications as directed.
Make sure you sleep enough so your body can fight the infection.
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids.
Ask your doctor to schedule a follow-up appointment. You may need another chest X-ray to make sure your infection has cleared.