Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs with a possibility of causing serious and life-threatening disease. It’s normally caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection etc.
During the illness, the tiny air sacs inside lungs fill up with fluid making it difficult to breathe and causing cough.
Pneumonia can occur at any age, but it is most dangerous for older adults, babies, people with other diseases, and those with weakened immune systems. It is the leading cause of death due to infection in children younger than 5 years of age worldwide.
What can cause pneumonia?
Bacteria and viruses are the main causes of pneumonia. They can be passed on through coughing and sneezing or spread onto shared objects through touch. Pneumonia-causing germs can settle in the alveoli and multiply after a person breathes them in.
Then the body sends its police (white blood cells) to attack the foreign invader. This is why the air sacs become filled. The bacteria and viruses fill the lung sacs with fluid and pus, causing pneumonia.
Who is likely to have pneumonia?
Those who are most at risk include:
- People who are under age 5 or over age 65
- People who smoke tobacco, consume large amounts of alcohol, or both
- People who have previous medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), asthma, or conditions that affect the kidneys, heart, or liver
- People who have a low immunity, due, for example, to HIV, or cancer
- People who take medicines for heartburn may get “aspiration pneumonia”
- People who have recently recovered from a cold or influenza infection
- People who are experiencing malnutrition
- People who have been recently hospitalized or in an intensive care unit may get “Hospital-acquired pneumonia”
- People who have been exposed to certain chemicals or pollutants
Pneumonia? Signs to watch out for
The first symptoms of pneumonia usually resemble those of a cold or flu. The person then develops a high fever, chills, and cough with sputum.
Most common and typical symptoms of pneumonia include:
- A cough
- Reddish-brown or green sputum coughed up from lungs
- Fast breathing and shortness of breath
- Shaking chills
- Chest pain that usually worsens when taking a deep breath
- Fast heartbeat
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- A headache
- Muscle pain
- Confusion, especially in older adults
- Purplish skin colour, or pale skin, from low oxygen in the blood
Children; signs to look out for
In most children, the immune system can protect them from pneumonia. If a child does develop pneumonia, it is usually due to a virus.
- Difficulty breathing
- Not feeding properly
- A child less than 5 years may complain of pain in their chest, and they may vomit after coughing.
When you notice any of the above signs, please go your doctor for treatment!
How Can Pneumonia Be Diagnosed?
A doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and will carry out a physical examination. Also, you may need an additional examination such as X-ray, blood test, and look into your lungs through a camera called bronchoscope etc.