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February 6, 2024

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the air sacs in one or both lungs, leading to the accumulation of fluid or pus. Symptoms include fever, a cough with phlegm or pus, chills, and difficulty breathing. Various organisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, can cause pneumonia.

The severity of this illness varies. It ranges from mild to life-threatening. Infants, young children, individuals over 65, and those with health issues or weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to serious complications from pneumonia.

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition. It primarily affects the air sacs in the lungs, causing them to fill with pus and other fluid. This buildup interferes with the lungs’ ability to oxygenate the blood, leading to symptoms such as:

·      Cough with phlegm

·      Difficulty breathing

·      Fever

·      Chest pain when you breathe or cough

·      Chills and sweating

·      Diarrhea

·      Nausea and vomiting

·      Fatigue

·      Shortness of breath

Pneumonia can be caused by various pathogens, including:

·      Bacteria

·      Viruses

·      Fungi

·      other microorganisms

What causes pneumonia?

Pneumonia can arise when your immune system combats an infection in the small sacs of your lungs. This causes swelling and fluid leakage. 

Various bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause infections leading to this inflammatory condition. In adults, bacteria are the primary culprits, while in school-aged children, viruses are the most common triggers. Common illnesses that can progress to this condition are:

·      COVID-19 (SARS-COV-2)

·      Common cold (rhinovirus)

·      Flu (influenza virus)

·      Human parainfluenza virus (HPIV)

·      Human metapneumovirus (HMPV)

·      Legionnaires’ disease

·      Pneumococcal disease

·      Mycoplasma pneumonia bacteria

·      Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

·      Pneumocystis pneumonia

Types of pneumonia

Pneumonia is categorized based on the causative germs and the source of infection.

1.  Community-acquired pneumonia: The most prevalent form of this inflammatory condition. It occurs outside of healthcare facilities and may be caused by:

  • Bacteria:Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common bacterium responsible for causing pneumonia. Other bacterial culprits include:
    • Haemophilus influenza
    • Staphylococcus aureus

Bacterial pneumonia often follows respiratory infections like the flu or cold due to a weakened immune system.

  • Fungi: It’s common in individuals with a:
    • Chronic health issues
    • Weakened immune systems

It is often contracted by inhaling organisms from soil or bird droppings. It’s less common but can be severe in specific populations.

  • Viruses, including COVID-19: Some viruses causing colds or the flu can lead to this illness. Viral pneumonia is common in children under 5, and COVID-19 can result in severe pneumonia.

2.  Hospital-acquired pneumonia: Occurs during a hospital stay for another ailment. This poses a higher risk due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Individuals on ventilators, commonly found in intensive care units, are particularly susceptible.

3.  Healthcare-acquired pneumonia: A bacterial infection affecting those in long-term care facilities. The bacteria involved may be more resistant to antibiotics.

4.  Aspiration pneumonia: This occurs when foreign substances, such as food, saliva, or vomit, are inhaled into the lungs, leading to infection.

It is often seen in individuals with impaired swallowing or consciousness, such as those with neurological disorders.

How is pneumonia treated?

Treatment for pneumonia depends on the cause — bacterial, viral, or fungal — as well as the severity of your condition. Certain treatments may include:

·      Antibiotics- treat bacterial pneumonia. They cannot treat viruses, but your doctor may prescribe them if you have a bacterial illness along with a virus.

·      Antifungal medicines– can help treat fungal pneumonia.

·      Antiviral medications- Viral pneumonia is usually not treated with medicine and resolves on its own. Doctors may prescribe the following to shorten the duration and severity of the illness:

o   Oseltamivir

o   Peramivir

o   Zanamivir

·      IV fluids– Fluids administered straight into your vein (IV) to treat or prevent dehydration.

·      Oxygen therapy– If you aren’t getting enough oxygen, your doctor may administer extra oxygen.

·      Fluid drainage– If you have a large amount of fluid between your lungs and the chest wall (pleural effusion), your provider may drain it. 

Hospitalization may be necessary for severe pneumonia, especially in:

·      older adults

·      individuals with weakened immune systems

·      those with underlying health conditions

In extreme cases, oxygen therapy or mechanical ventilation may be required to assist breathing.

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