What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The infection causes the alveoli also known as the air sacs to be inflamed and fill with fluid or pus causing difficulty breathing, fever, chills, and cough with phlegm. The severity of symptoms caused by pneumonia depends on many factors such as the type of organism causing the lung infection, age, and overall health condition of an individual. It is a serious illness for children under the age of five, adults over the age of 65, people with certain chronic medical conditions such as, diabetes, COPD or heart failure or people who have weak immune systems due to HIV/AIDS or medication such as steroids and chemotherapy.

Pneumonia Epidemiology

Approximately 3 million cases of pneumonia and 1.6 million hospitalizations have been reported yearly in the United States. It is the eighth leading cause of death among older adults and according to 2016 data, pneumonia accounts for 544,000 emergency department visits. An adult over the age of 65 accounts for one-third of the cases and 4 in 100 children are likely to develop pneumonia each year.

How is pneumonia spread?

Germs that cause pneumonia usually spread from an infected person via tiny droplets from coughing or sneezing. Also, it can be spread when an infected person touch and objects and someone else touch this object and then touch their own mouth or nose.

What are the symptoms of Pneumonia?

Symptoms of pneumonia can be mild of life-threatening and may include:

  • Cough with mucus or phlegm
  • High fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain when cough or breathe
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Shaking chills

What are the Risk Factors for Pneumonia?

Age: Pneumonia can affect people of all ages but more severe in infants who are two years old or younger and elderly who are 65 years old or older.

Cigarettes smoking, excessive use of alcohol, or being undernourished also predisposed you to pneumonia infection.

Patients who are on a ventilator can get pneumonia known as Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP)

How to prevent Pneumonia?

  • Vaccination is the first-line defense against many cases of pneumonia infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23 vaccines to help protect against pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria. An annual flu shot is also recommended by the CDC to prevent flu infection complicated by pneumonia.
  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Don’t smoke or quit smoking because smoking damage the natural defense mechanism of the lung

How to diagnose Pneumonia?

Pneumonia diagnosis begins with a thorough medical history and physical examination including listening to the lung using a stethoscope. A crackling, bubbling, and rumbling sounds when you inhale on lung examination may be an indication of pneumonia infection. A Chest x-ray is usually recommended to look for inflammation in the lungs. Blood tests, blood culture, and a sputum test are also recommended to establish the diagnosis.

Differential Diagnoses:

  • Bronchiectasis
  • Asthma
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Atelectasis
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Covid-19

How is Pneumonia treated?

Antibiotics are the treatment of choice for pneumonia caused by bacteria. Usually, Macrolides or fluoroquinolones are prescribed as outpatients’ treatment. It kills the organism that causes bacterial pneumonia infection. Anyone infected with pneumonia should make sure they complete the full course of their antibiotics regimen even if they feel better prior to completing the recommended dose to prevent bacterial resistance.

Pneumonia caused by a virus is treated with antiviral medicine and antifungal for those caused by fungus.

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