Introduction: The Lurking Danger of Pneumonia
Pneumonia is defined as an inflammation of the parenchyma of the lung. Anatomically, the portion of the lung distal to terminal bronchioles is involved. In this blog, we delve into the intricate and often underestimated realm of it, shedding light on its nature, impact, and the critical measures to combat this respiratory threat. Understanding it is crucial to protecting lung health and promoting overall well-being.
Understanding Pneumonia: The Invisible Invader
It is usually infectious in origin. The organisms reach the lungs by four ways :
- Inhalation of microbes from the air. For example tuberculous pneumonia.
- Aspiration of organisms from nasopharynx, the most common cause pneumococcal pneumonia.
- Haematogenous spread from a distant site of infection.
- Direct spread from contiguous site of infection.
Normally, the lung has solid defense mechanisms, which does not allow the bacteria to settle down, but if the defense mechanisms fail to combat infection, it can occur in normal healthy persons. If some abnormality of the lung is present, then even low virulent organisms can produce it.
Exploring it’s Diverse Causes
There are many germs that can cause it. The most common causes of it are bacteria and viruses, which are present in the air. Sometimes, these germs can overpower the immune system, even if the health is generally good. Some common causes include :
- Cold viruses
- Flu viruses
- RSV Virus
- Bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae and Mycoplasma pneumoniae
Symptoms and Red Flags
Signs and symptoms of it may include :
- Fever and sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shaking chills
- Chest pain, when coughing
- Changes in mental awareness
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid breathing
Newborns and infants may not show any signs of infection. Or they might vomit, have a fever and a cough, and seem restless or tired.
Classifying it: Understanding its Diverse Types
Classification of it is arbitrary, but is a useful one depending on the presence of underlying defect in the lung or immunity.
It is an acute bronchoalveolar infection commonly acquired by aspiration or inhalation of infected material after dental extraction. It occurs in extreme ages of life. The elderly debilitated individuals are susceptible to this. Patient has a mild cough in the beginning for a few days, followed by increased cough, high grade fever and purulent sputum. The most common cause of it is bacterial lung infection, such as streptococcus pneumoniae and H.influenzae type b, viral and fungal infections.
It is also known as primary pneumonia. It involves a healthy lung. The infection is caused specifically by highly virulent organisms. It is acquired by inhalation of infected oropharyngeal secretions. The organisms responsible for it are :
- Streptococcus pneumoniae
- Staphylococcus aureus
- H. influenza
Nosocomial pneumonia ( Hospital-acquired Pneumonia )
It is developing in hospitals in patients who have been admitted for more than 48 hours should be considered to be nosocomial or hospital-acquired pneumonia rather than community-acquired pneumonia. Because of change of oropharyngeal flora in hospitalised patients, it is caused by aerobic gram negative organisms like
- E. coli
- KL pneumoniae
- Staphylococcus Aureus
- H. influenza
Aspiration or supportive Pneumonia
It is defined as consolidation of the lung in which there is continued destruction of parenchyma by the inflammatory cells leading to the formation of micro-abscess. Symptoms include cough with sputum which sometimes is blood stained, chest pain, shortness of breath, breath odor, wheezing etc. Basically, it occurs due to inhaling foreign materials into the lungs. These materials can be :
- Bacteria from saliva
- Small foreign objects.
Healthcare providers may perform some tests to look for signs of infection in the lungs. Common approaches to investigate it include :
- Chest X-ray for the capacity of the lungs.
- Sputum examination and sputum culture
- Nose and throat swab culture
- Blood culture and sensitivity
- Pleural fluid culture
- Blood gas analysis
- Pulse oximetry
To help prevent pneumonia :
- Vaccines are available, which help in preventing them and the flu.
- Practice good hygiene. It helps in protection against respiratory infections.
- Doctors recommend its different vaccines for children younger than age 2 and for children ages to 2 – 5 years. Make sure children get vaccinated under the given age stages.
- Quit smoking. Smoking damages lungs’ natural defenses against respiratory infections.
- Get enough sleep, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
Common treatment includes curing the infection and preventing complications. Generally, treatment depends on the type and severity of it. Other options include :
- Oral antibiotics are used to treat bacterial pneumonia. Antibiotic medications don’t work on viruses. In some cases, doctors prescribe antivirals.
- Anti-fungal medications are used to treat fungal pneumonia.
- Doctors may also recommend over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever, These may include aspirin, ibuprofen etc.
Coughing is one of the most common symptoms of it. Natural ways to relieve a cough include gargling salt water or drinking peppermint tea. Getting a lot of rest and drinking plenty of water helps in recovery.
Complications can take place in people with weakened immune systems or chronic conditions such as diabetes. Complications may include :
- Lung abscess
- Impaired breathing
- Impaired respiratory distress syndrome
- Pleural effusion
- Respiratory failure
- Kidney failure
- Heart failure
Conclusion : Respiratory health matters
As we conclude this exploration of the pneumonia chronicles, remember that knowledge and preparedness are essential in the battle against this respiratory menace. Early recognition, prompt care, and preventive actions are powerful tools in maintaining lung health.