Have a dry cough, chest pain, and difficulty in breathing— it may be the case of pneumonia. If you’re suffering from these kinds of symptoms, then read the whole post, you will get an overview of how pneumonia actually looks like.
So, the very aim of this post is to magnify your knowledge about pneumonia along with its types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
We also covered a special topic related to pregnancy and pneumonia. So, if you’re pregnant then you should definitely read that section.
What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia (another name pneumonitis) is an infectious lung disease that may be bacterial, fungal, viral, or some other parasites. But some are non-infectious. They cause inflammation in the alveoli of lungs which is a major cause of chest pain in the patient. In these cases, the alveoli of the lungs eventually fill with pus or fluid, which makes breathing more painful.
Generally, pneumonia is mild but in some cases, people show severe symptoms such as chest pain. In those cases, the patient should immediately rush to the hospital.
While talking about the age group that is infected by this lung disease, it can happen to anybody irrespective of their age. However, as per stats, children younger than 2 years, and old ages over 65 years are at higher risk of getting pneumonitis. The reason behind these age groups is because of their weak immune system.
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What are the Causes of Pneumonia?
As stated earlier, pneumonia is majorly infectious that is caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. However, the major cause of this lung disease is bacterias and viruses. Till now, there are more than 100 infectious agents identified that may generate a pneumonitis condition.
So, let’s discuss in details about these infectious causing agents:
In the majority of cases, the main cause of pneumonitis is bacterial. These are the following causes that are associated with bacteria:
- Streptococcus Pneumoniae— most common
- Mycoplasma Pneumoniae
- Haemophilus Influenzae
- Legionella Pneumophila
Conversely, viruses are the 30% cause for the development of pneumonitis in adults. In addition, 15% of cases in children are due to some sort of viruses. These are the names of some viruses that can cause pneumonia and other respiratory disorders in the human lungs.
- Influenza (flu) Virus
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
Note: Generally, viral pneumonitis gets milder with time even without treatment if the person has a strong immune system.
They are very rare but common in people who are already suffering from a disease like AIDS. In addition, a person who is on the medication of immunosuppressive drugs, or other medical problems can also generate fungal pneumonia.
However, fungi can reach in the body from unclean fruits and by birds dropping. These are the following some name of fungal agents that are responsible for this lung infection:
- Histoplasma capsulatum
- Cryptococcus Species
- Pneumocystis Jiroveci
Like Fungal, parasites pneumonia are also rare. In general, they usually enter the body through direct contact i.e. via skin contact, ingestion, or via an insect vector.
However, there are a variety of parasites that can cause lung infections, including:
- Toxoplasma Gondii
- Strongyloides stercoralis
- Ascaris Lumbricoides
- Plasmodium Malaria.
Pneumonitic conditions like Idiopathic Interstitial Pneumonia are non-infectious. These are the following list of noninfectious cause of pneumonia:
- Diffuse alveolar damage
- Organizing pneumonia
- Nonspecific interstitial pneumonia
- Lymphocytic interstitial pneumonia
- Desquamative interstitial pneumonia
- Respiratory bronchiolitis interstitial lung disease
- Lipoid pneumonia
What are the Types of Pneumonia?
Apart from categorizing pneumonia in terms of causing factors (which we already discuss), we focus on categorizing pneumonia on the basis of its acquisition.
Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia (HAP)
They are acquired at hospital stay when the patient is already on some sort of treatment. Generally, HAP is bacterial. Hence, they could cause severe pain and can generate more serious conditions.
This all happens because, bacterial infections are usually more resistant to antibiotics, and this makes them hard to treat.
Community-Acquired Pneumonia (CAP)
They are acquired outside the medical or institutional facilities. In general, CAP is the most common type of pneumonitis worldwide.
Common agents that cause mortality are mainly bacterial and parasitic which include Streptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenza.
Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP)
They occur when there is infection from mechanical ventilation breathing machines in hospitals. In other words, they happen to those people who are on the ventilator.
In general, VAP hits critically ill people which is devastating for them. And this leads to severe illness whose mortality rate is too high.
It is a type of bacterial infection, which happens due to inhalation of the bacterial agent into your lungs. Often, they are inhaled with food, drink, or even saliva. And one of the most common signs of aspiration pneumonia is, the person has difficulty in swallowing and cough which are relatively rapid onset.
Moreover, too much use of sedative alcohol and other drugs also leads to this pneumonitis condition.
Sign and Symptoms of Pneumonia
The severity and occurrence (incubation period) of symptoms depends on the type of infection. While the severity of pneumonia, in general, is mild but in some cases like VAP and coronavirus, etc, could be life-threatening.
However, the majority of pneumonitis cases poses the following common symptoms:
- Vigorous coughing that may produce phlegm (mucus)
- Shortness of breath
- Pain while breathing, worse when coughing
- Fever, sweating, and chills
- Headaches and loss of appetite
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Feeling tired or fatigue
The above list of symptoms is generally common in adults. However, children/ newborn/ infants may have no symptoms. But sometimes signs such as vomit, lack of energy, laziness, trouble in drinking, and eating symbolizes the case of pneumonia. Moreover, children under 5 years might have fast breathing and mild coughing problems.
While talking about the signs and symptoms in older people, the condition might be covered up by their body ache and digestion problem like the gastric problem.
But due to their weak immune systems, the body is not able to cope with severe changes that may generate another disease like anemia.
Note: If you have a condition of short breath, chest pain, fever in 2020, then call for help because it might be due to coronavirus. And now, it becomes a pandemic where the majority of deaths are due to the development of pneumonitis in the lungs.
Diagnostic Test for Pneumonia
In the diagnosis of pneumonia, the doctor might start a preliminary examination by asking you some questions related to your condition. In the preliminary questionnaire, he might ask:
- From when you have chest pain
- What are the common symptoms?
- Which part of the lungs did you feel the most pain?
Moreover, he might also use a stethoscope to check the heartbeat rate and also lungs rate along with any cranky sound while breathing.
And based on the preliminary examination he might prescribe some imaging and blood tests.
Chest X-ray is common to depict the abnormality of pus formation or other inflammatory signs in the lung tissues.
In this test, the blood is used to check for any type of infection. In addition, in the case of viral infection, the test such as Immunoglobulins (IgA, IgG, IgM) defines which viral agents lead to pneumonia.
In this test, sputum fluid— a thick fluid produced in the lungs— is tested for the identification of bacteria or fungi. In general, a fresh morning sample is taken for the sputum culture.
Pulse oximetry measures the saturated oxygen level in the blood with a painless procedure. In this test, a sensor is placed over one finger, and with the lungs movement, the volume captured air by lungs is measured.
With the use of a CT scan, the doctor could diagnose the patient’s lungs in more detail. However, a CT scan result might also show the infection growth in the lung region along with symptoms like pulmonary embolism, which is not seen in X-ray.
Fluid Sample (Biopsy)
This is usually done when the blood test shows not promising results or also to check the metabolic growth rate of infection in the lungs. With a biopsy, a specific infection-causing agent can be identified.
Conversely, bronchoscopy is just like watching a live TV match. Here, with the help of a camera-equipped tube that slants down through the throat by a special doctor— pulmonologist— to examine the lungs and air passages. They are generally done in the case where the patient shows severe symptoms in a short period of time.
Treatment for Pneumonia
As pneumonia generally heals on its own in adults or who have a strong immune system. However, in some bacterial pneumonitis conditions, even with strong immune symptoms, patients require extra medication and treatment.
Therefore, the treatment depends on the type and severity of pneumonia the patient has.
Based on the patient’s conditions, the doctor prescribed a set of medications to minimize the symptoms of pneumonitis. These are some medication that helps in treating this lung disease:
A. Oral Antibiotics: They are commonly used to treat bacterial infection of lungs. Generally, they are given in sets of two or more antibiotics along with some immune activation drugs.
B. Antifungal Medications: When you have a fungal infection then the doctor prescribes you some antifungal medications which usually takes 4-5 weeks for a complete cleanse of infection from your body.
Treatment at Home
In many cases including some bacterial and fungal pneumonia, the doctor may recommend over-the-counter (OTC) medication with complete bed rest.
The medication might include suppressing the symptoms of pain, fever, or coughs. These are some of the following medication that a doctor generally prescribes:
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Antitussives such as dextromethorphan
- Expectorants such as guaifenesin
Additionally, you should take plenty of fluids on a daily basis.
In the majority of pneumonitis cases, symptoms are mild which usually not require immediate hospitalization. However, in the case of severe symptoms, the patient must rush to the hospital usually in the intensive care unit (ICU). Based on the patient’s condition, doctors might regularly monitor them.
In addition, the patient might be given plasma therapy, if it is a case of viral infection. And constant ventilation support is also employed to help him in breathing. In the hospital, the common treatment for pneumonia includes
- intravenous antibiotics injected into a vein
- respiratory therapy— delivering medications directly into the lungs.
- oxygen therapy (ventilator)— to maintain blood oxygen levels.
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Prevention from Pneumonia
These few measures that you can take to prevent yourself from pneumatic conditions. These are:
Vaccination for Pneumonia
For instance, there is a line of different vaccination for the various types of pneumonia with a high success rate. That means, even after you vaccinated yourself, there is still a chance of getting pneumatic conditions by those infectious agents.
1. Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23: Both vaccination for pneumococcal bacteria. And based on your doctor’s advice, you can get any of the vaccines.
- Prevnar 13: After vaccinated by this vaccine you can protect yourself from a series of a total of 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria. However, as per CDC guidelines, if your age is above 65 years or your child’s age is less than 2 years, then this vaccine is not viable to you.
- Pneumovax 23: This vaccination is effective for 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. Like Prevnar 13, adults whose age is more than 65 and children whose age is less than 2 should not be vaccinated.
2. Flu Vaccine: Flu vaccines are not like others where one-shot serves lifetime but here you need to get annual flu shots. And again it depends on the regional area where you are living. Any person (even children 6 months older) can get the flu vaccine.
5. Hib Vaccine: If in your region, there are cases of Haemophilus influenza type b, then you should definitely get vaccinated yourself with the Hib vaccine. As per the CDC recommendation, any aged person can be vaccinated by it. However, for children, the lowest age limit is 5 years, and also in some special cases of a bone marrow transplant.
Other Prevention Tips
In addition to vaccination, there are other things you can to avoid to prevent pneumonia:
- Lifestyle changes like the habit of smoking cigarettes should be omitted.
- One should avoid too much-drinking alcohol.
- Some common habits like regular hand washing can prevent you from many of the infectious agents.
- Try to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. In addition, you can use disposal tissues.
- You can improve your immune system by eating a balanced diet and fruits.
- Try to exercise for at least 30 mins a day.
Pneumonia And Pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, you have a higher chance of getting pneumonitic conditions. The main cause of pneumonia in pregnancy is majorly due to two factors, one is the suppression of the immune system and other factors is the change in the hormonal levels.
Hence, pregnant women are more prone to the flu which can susceptible to increase chances of pneumonia.
Some other conditions that lead to this lung disease are:
- Influenza (flu)
- Respiratory distress syndrome
As per stats, these are the three common pneumonia that a pregnant woman has:
- Haemophilus Influenza
- Mycoplasma Pneumonia
- Streptococcus Pneumonia
Pneumonia is a lung disease which is often infectious due to agents like bacteria, fungus, virus, and parasites. While the common symptoms include chest pain, vigorous coughing with phlegm, shortness of breath, fever, sweating, chills, headaches, and loss of appetite.
To diagnose pneumonia there are various tests such as CT scan, blood culture, biopsy, and pulse oximetry. Moreover, to treat pneumonia, there are certain medications including antibiotics, antifungal, painkillers, etc. to suppress the symptoms of pneumonia.
However, for certain bacterial infections, there are various vaccines available with a good success rate.
How long does pneumonia last for?
Ans. It nearly takes 2 to 3 weeks to completely rid-off from pneumonia. But in the case of children, old people, or adults with low immune system response can take much longer amounts of time to get healed.
Can a cold turn into pneumonia?
Ans. Yes, in many cases, early cold symptoms due to some viruses, or bacteria can later transform into pneumonia.
Can pneumonia go away on its own?
Ans. It depends. Majorly, there is no treatment for viral infections and they eventually go away in a few weeks. However, bacterial and fungal pneumonia needed some antibiotics and antifungal drugs to control the condition.
What is walking pneumonia?
Ans. These are mild pneumonia also called silent pneumonia. In this, patients don’t need any hospitalization. And people generally report it as a common cold.
Can onions help with pneumonia?
Ans. Definitely No. No such home remedies help in pneumonia or its prevention. It is just a false belief.
What herbs cure pneumonia?
Ans. Herbs like peppermint, eucalyptus, and fenugreek tea can help in the treatment of pneumonia. In general, these herbs may reduce chest pain and also coughing.