Pneumonia is a respiratory infection, caused by bacteria or viruses, and is marked by inflammation of the membrane lining the lungs. It is contagious and may range from mild to severe.
Causes & Treatments Of Pneumonia
Mostly it gets treated at home, but young babies, children, people with suppressed immunity, smokers and habitual drinkers, asthmatic patients, undernourished individuals, and those above 65 years belong to the vulnerable group who may need hospitalization.
Sometimes, severe pneumonia may even lead to death in absence of correct medical analysis and treatment.
The Functions Of Lungs:
Millions of tiny airbags are present at the end of bronchial tubes in both our lungs. The air-sacs, also called ‘alveoli’, in healthy lungs expand while they take up oxygen from the air and shrink while they expel the carbon dioxide. It is these small airbags in the lungs that get filled with fluid during pneumonia.
The main function of our lungs is to reach oxygen to all parts of the body through the bloodstream and remove carbon dioxide via exhalation. However, in pneumonia, the bronchial tubes swell, making it harder for oxygenated air to pass through; the air sacs get filled with mucous, thus breathing becoming more labored and painful.
Causes & Types Of Pneumonia:
Pneumonia is mostly caused by bacteria in the air. In children and babies, however, virus-causing pneumonia is more common.
People recovering from recent viral infections or influenza are sometimes prone to developing pneumonia. Bacterial and viral pneumonia are air-borne, infectious, and spread from contact with a patient. Pneumonia caused by fungi is rare and is not contagious like the other two.
Pneumonia is caused by inhaling air droplets containing pneumonia-causing germs. This happens when someone is in close proximity with a patient who sneezes or coughs directly into air. Touching objects used by an infected person, either knowingly or unknowingly, can cause pneumonia.
Symptoms Of Pneumonia:
Initially, the symptoms of pneumonia may be confused with those of the common cold or flu. But as days progress, health condition worsens. The following are the classic signs of pneumonia, however, it is not necessary for an infected person to display all of the clinical signs mentioned below:
- Experiencing fever and chills
- Coughing with yellow, green or ( in extreme cases) even red phlegm. This is called ‘sputum’.
- Wheezing and rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath due to diminished oxygen concentration in blood
- Increased heart beat and pulse rate
- Splitting headache
- Generalized muscle ache
- Experiencing chest pain during normal breathing
- Feeling nauseous
- Mental confusion in older patients
- Skin and nails often turn bluish due to decreased oxygen supply in the body. The condition is called ‘cyanosis’.
Pneumonia may not always be severe. Hence, the symptoms vary from person to person.
The first step to recovery from any illness is to take expert medical advice without delay.
The treating doctor needs to be competent enough to draw up a plan basis a strong diagnosis. Treatment of pneumonia depends much on the type, severity, and age group of the patient. He will suggest an x-ray for the chest to examine the presence of abnormalities (if any), blood tests, and sputum samples.
Pneumonia can well-nigh be treated at home with antibiotics if it is mild to moderate. An average healthy adult with no medical history and showing mild symptoms has a good prognosis.
Home treatment will include the following:
- The patient will be put on oral antibiotics (tablets or suspension). The choice of the antibiotic also needs to be discreet.
- Paracetamol will be prescribed for treating the fever/chills
- A pain relieving tablet may be taken to lessen the muscle aches
- The doctor will recommend plenty of water/fluid intake to loosen the mucous
- Physical rest is paramount for speedy recovery in pneumonia
In case of individuals needing immediate hospitalization, the treating doctor will advise the following:
- Intravenous injection of antibiotics – Antibiotics are given through a drip because the patient is too weak to be administered oral drugs.
- Oxygen therapy – Since the body is deficient on ideal oxygen levels, the doctor recommends oxygen therapy to treat ‘cyanosis’ , mental confusion, abnormal breathing, etc.
- Intravenous fluids – The patient is fed intravenously till he recovers enough to take food orally.
- Physiotherapy – Pneumonia can result in a lot of weakness and body fatigue. Physiotherapy and light physical exercises are recommended to regain lost strength.
It may take several weeks for one to completely recover from pneumonia. One of the best signs to ascertain that pneumonia is getting better is when there is a marked reduction in mucous production and chest pain and breathing improves. Within 3 – 6 months one can resume a normal routine.
You may also read: Can Breathing Exercises Be Used For Lowering BP Heart Attack risk