Pneumonia is a chronic lung disease, causing inflammation of alveoli or air sacs in the lungs. During this condition, the air sacs get filled with fluid or pus and this disturbs normal breathing phenomenon. It can be experienced in one or both lungs, and therefore known as single or double pneumonia respectively.
How do you get pneumonia?
Breathing in air containing germs causing pneumonia may lead to this lung disorder. When a person inhales in air containing bacteria and viruses, these parasitic organisms find their way into the respiratory tract. The body's immune system sends in antibodies to fight and eliminate foreign entities.
However, when the immune system fails to fight back germs, the parasitic organisms settle within the air sacs and multiply. As the body still continues to fight back germs, a fluid or pus is released, blocking the alveoli and thus leading to pneumonia.
What are the types of pneumonia?
Pneumonia can be classified on the basis of where and how the causative germs enter our body, or the part of the lungs that gets affected:
Types of pneumonia – How the germs have entered our body:
Community acquired pneumonia (CAP)
Hospital acquired pneumonia (HAP)
Healthcare acquired pneumonia (HCAP)
Ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP)
Aspiration – A condition where foreign materials (food, saliva, nasal secretions) enter the bronchial tree
Types of pneumonia – Depending on the part of lungs affected:
Acute interstitial pneumonia
What are the signs and symptoms of pneumonia?
Shortness of breath
Fast breathing – more than 45 breaths per minute
Bluish discoloration of skin, fingertips and toenails
Cough accompanied with small amount of mucous
Coughing up blood
A bad sore throat
Severe chest pain
Fever that may sometimes be accompanied with chills and shivering
Swollen lymph nodes of neck
Wheezing or noisy breathing
Who is at a high risk of getting pneumonia?
Excessive smoking and alcoholism lead to the most common reasons of CAP
Severe cold or influenza may lead to viral pneumonia
Infants below 1 year and adults above 65 years remain at highest risk of pneumonia
Other medical condition – HIV, COPD or Asthma
Have a weak immune system or being malnourished
Continuous and prolonged exposure to certain industrial pollutants
Are people living in cold climatic conditions more prone to pneumonia?
Pneumonia is not related to weather conditions. People living in cold areas mostly stay indoors to keep themselves warm. As they do not come in contact with fresh air and sunlight too often, bacteria growth becomes easier. Thus, making them susceptible to pneumonia. Again, people living in tropical regions already have hot climatic conditions favorable for bacterial growth. Thus, pneumonia is equally common in these areas as well.
Is pneumonia fatal?
Pneumonia is usually not fatal and can be treated with timely diagnosis and administering effective remedies. However, virus infected pneumonia in children and elderly people may prove fatal if proper and quick treatment measures are not opted for.
What tests will you doctor order to confirm pneumonia?
Early symptoms of pneumonia can be very misleading as they are very common to any other lung disorder such as asthma. However, you are required to see a doctor if you are having any of the above mentioned symptoms (Refer to Question 4).
The doctor may suggest the following tests:
Pneumonia that has been diagnosed at an early stage can easily be treated with antibiotics and adequate rest. Infants detected with pneumonia may have to spend a night or two in hospitals to eliminate any chances of severity. Drinking plenty of fluids while in this condition is extremely important.
What is the recovery period of pneumonia?
Patients suffering from severe pneumonia require 4- 6 months time, getting back to normal. This implies coming back to the most healthy version of themselves. However, reduction in intensity of symptoms can be experienced right after the medicines have been administered. Very severe pneumonia may have the following staged improvement:
Within a week's time, you are no longer suffering from fever
Cough and mucous production is completely resolved by a month's time
Around the 6th week post medication, you will no longer experience breathlessness or similar difficulties
After 3 months, you only feel a little tired while all other symptoms have disappeared
Around the 6th month, you are completely back to your normal life with no signs of pneumonia
Is pneumonia contagious?
No. Pneumonia as a disease is not contagious. However, germs causing this disease are free to travel from one person to another. Therefore, people who are already at a high risk of pneumonia; as for example a person with weakened immune system should not be in close contact with pneumonia patients; especially those suffering from bronchial pneumonia.
Is double pneumonia more dangerous than single pneumonia?
Well it is conveniently believed that double pneumonia is more difficult. However, this is not completely true as severe single pneumonia can prove to be more dangerous than chronic double pneumonia.
Can pneumonia lead to other health disorders?
Yes pneumonia may sometimes lead to further complications.
Bacteremia – Bacteria causing pneumonia may enter the blood steam and pass to other organs and rarely lead to organ failure
Pleural effusion – Fluid may further develop within thin layers of tissue lining the lungs or pleura. This may call for a surgical treatment.
What can you do to prevent pneumonia?
The following are some of the effective measures of preventing pneumonia:
Abstaining from smoking and alcohol
Maintaining good hygiene to reduce chances of germ contact
Early treatment of mild flu or influenza
Eating healthy food to keep immune system at good state
Taking very good care of new borns in terms of hygiene and protection from flu germs
Maintaining clean and safe environment to reduce chances of people suffering from CAP - The most common type of pneumonia worldwide
Vaccines against pneumonia. Prevnar is a pneumonia vaccine formulated for infants. Pneumovax is available for adults.
How often do elderly people above 65 years need to take pneumonia vaccines?
A single dose of pneumonia is recommended for adults above 65 years. No annual vaccines are required. However, Pneumonia vaccines may perhaps not guarantee 100% prevention. However, people at high risk of pneumonia may definitely have a reduced chance of getting severe pneumonia in future.
Can breastfeeding protect your child from pneumonia?
The answer is YES. Breastfeeding gives your child every essential ingredients to strengthen the immune system and thus fight away germs. However, at a tender age, care needs to be taken that your baby is kept in a clean and safe environment; even if you are breastfeeding him/her.
What food items can help to treat pneumonia?
Apart from medical treatments discussed earlier (Refer Q.7), there are certain food items that can facilitate speedy recovery from pneumonia. However, you need to discuss with your doctor before making any drastic dietary change.
Below listed are some of the food items that have shown to improve conditions in most patients:
A mixed variety of fruits and vegetables you eat
Beats and spinach are said to be very effective for pneumonia
Carrot juice is also equally helpful
Whole grains - Oats, brown rice, barley
Cold water fish provide required amounts of protein and omega 3 fats
Chicken soup is effective for all lung diseases including pneumonia
6 – 10 cups of liquid, including water, juice, mild tea. Coffee needs to be avoided. Milk may lead to irritation in some patients and therefore you can choose according to your personal requirements