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Pheumonia

Definition

Pneumonia is inflammation of the tissues in one or both of the lungs that is usually caused by an infection.

Description

There are clusters of tiny air sacs at the end of the lungs. These are called alveoli. In the case of Pneumonia, these tiny sacs become inflamed and fill up with fluid. It causes a cough and the inflammation makes breathing difficult.

Pneumonia can affect people of any age. People who are otherwise healthy usually recover well. For certain groups of people, Pneumonia can be a very serious illness. These include; For example:

  • babies, young children and elderly people,
  • people who smoke, and
  • people with other health conditions, such as a lung condition or a lowered immune system.

Pneumonia can occur suddenly or gradually. With appropriate treatment and if no other complications develop, most people recover in approximately 7 to 10 days.

Prevention

There are vaccines that can help protect you against getting pneumococcal pneumonia, the most common type of Pneumonia. The vaccine may reduce your chances of getting pneumococcal pneumonia and may also protect you against some of the more severe complications of Pneumonia.

Cause

Bacterial infection is the most common cause of Pneumonia. It can also be caused by a viral infection. In rare cases, pneumonia is caused by another type of germ called a fungus. Different types of germs cause different types of symptoms. Some germs may make a person feel more ill than others. In approximately one third of cases the cause will be unclear.

Pneumococcal Pneumonia is the most common form of Pneumonia. Pneumococci are bacteria. About half of all cases of pneumonia are caused by these germs. It is also known as streptococcal Pneumonia.

Mycoplasma Pneumonia is a less severe form of Pneumonia. The main symptom is a cough that comes in bouts. Nausea and vomiting is common. It spreads easily, and it often occurs in schools and nurseries. Pneumonia caused by mycoplasma organisms is generally mild, but recovery takes longer. Mycoplasmas are sometimes called atypical bacteria which can be treated with antibiotics.

Legionnaires' disease is caused by a bacteria that usually grow in the water or ventilation systems of large public buildings. Smokers or people with existing lung disease are more likely to get this type of Pneumonia.

Aspiration pneumonia can occur if a person accidentally inhales infected phlegm, swimming-pool water or vomit. Doing this allows germs into the lungs. This type of Pneumonia is more common in people who have difficulty swallowing properly because of another condition e,g stroke.

How does the infection happen?

The germs that cause Pneumonia are usually inhaled. Rarely, Pneumonia can develop from an infection somewhere else in the body, when the germs enter the lungs through the bloodstream.

Community-acquired Pneumonia

Pneumonia is sometimes called community-acquired Pneumonia. This means that the infection was not contracted during a stay in hospital. This would be called hospital-acquired Pneumonia. The types of germ that cause community-acquired Pneumonia are usually different from those that cause hospital-acquired Pneumonia.

Signs and Symptoms

Pneumonia can make a person feel very unwell. Common symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing, even when resting. Weakness and fatigue are common along with poor appetite. Symptoms may either develop suddenly over 1 or 2 days or more slowly, over several days.

Other common symptoms can include:

  • Coughing up phlegm (thick mucus) that may be yellow, green, brownish or blood-stained,
  • Wheezing,
  • A rapid heartbeat,
  • Sweating and shivering,
  • Chest pain.

Elderly people with Pneumonia can show fewer symptoms e.g fever is less common in an older person with Pneumonia.

Treatment Options

As with all medical conditions, consult your Doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Mild pneumonia can usually be treated at home. In most cases antibiotics are prescribed because infection with bacteria is the most common cause. You may feel tired for a few days after you finish the antibiotics, as your body continues to recover. If symptoms are severe, hospital treatment may be required.

Diet Hints

  • Try to maintain your usual diet. Eating a well-balanced diet is important for your recovery.
  • In general, it is a good idea to drink 4 to 6 glasses of liquid a day, unless you are on restricted fluids.

Pharmacist's Advice

Ask your Pharmacist for advice.

  1. Paracetamol or ibuprofen may be used to reduce fever and relieve pain.
  2. Antibiotics are often prescribed for bacterial Pneumonia. Ask your Pharmacist about the dosage and side effects of your medicines.
  3. Cough medicines are not recommended. Coughing enables you to clear mucus from your lungs, so trying to stop your cough could lengthen the duration of the infection.
  4. A warm drink of honey and lemon may help relieve the discomfort caused by coughing.
  5. Chest rubs may ease congestion and pain when coughing. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
  6. Ask your Pharmacist for advice on stopping smoking and for help in choosing the most appropriate stop smoking product.
  7. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
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