Pneumonia is an infection of the lung tissue that can affect one or both lungs. The symptoms of pneumonia can vary from mild to severe.
When a person has pneumonia, the air sacs of the lungs, also known as alveoli, become filled with fluid or pus due to infection. This causes difficulty for sufferers to breathe in oxygen distributed throughout the bloodstream in the body.
Causes of Pneumonia
In general, pneumonia occurs due to pneumococcal infection caused by the streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. There are also other types of pneumonia based on the cause, such as:
- Viral pneumonia, caused by the RSV virus. This virus is the main cause of pneumonia in infants <1 year. In addition, viral pneumonia is sometimes caused by influenza types A or B.
- Aspiration pneumonia, a complication of lung infection. This type of pneumonia occurs due to inhalation of vomit, foreign objects such as peanuts, or harmful substances such as smoke and chemicals
- Fungal pneumonia, a relatively rare type of pneumonia that usually occurs in people with a weak immune system.
- Hospital-acquired pneumonia, any pneumonia contracted by a patient after treatment or surgery in the hospital. Intensive care patients who use breathing devices have a higher risk of developing this type of pneumonia.
When to See a Doctor for Pneumonia?
Pneumonia can be consulted with a pulmonologist (respiratory medicine specialist). The pulmonologist will first ask you questions relating to the condition of the lungs and have you undergo a number of examinations. Your doctor will also confirm your medical history that includes smoking habits, relationships with family or friends who have illnesses and so on. When you are examined, the doctor will determine if there is a cracking or rumbling sound when you breathe in.
Pneumonia can be difficult to detect as the symptoms are similar to those of other diseases, such as colds and asthma. To confirm the pneumonia symptoms, your doctor will recommend a series of tests including:
- Blood tests to detect signs of bacterial infection
- Chest X-ray
- Oximetry to measure the level of oxygen in the blood
- Sputum culture — a test to check for fluid in the lungs that may be due to infection
Doctors will recommend X-rays and blood tests if symptoms have not improved within 48 hours after treatment. In people with hospital-acquired pneumonia, a series of examinations to detect problems in the respiratory tract include CT scan and bronchoscopy.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
Each type of pneumonia has different symptoms. These symptoms can suddenly appear within 24 to 48 hours. The general symptoms include:
- Chest pain when inhaling or coughing
- Cough that produces phlegm and mucus
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Increased heart rate
- High fever and sweating
- Nausea and diarrhea
Certain adults with low immune systems have the potential to experience a change in mental status (confusion). Additionally, adult patients have lower body temperature. Meanwhile, the symptoms of pneumonia in infants and children are more difficult to detect.
Other symptoms of pneumonia may include:
- Coughing up blood
- Joint and muscle pain
Treatment for Pneumonia
Pneumonia is not an infectious disease. However, it is recommended that you stay away form people with pneumonia if you have a weak immune system.
Consume antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor. Generally, pneumonia can improve after 1-3 days.
Apart from antibiotics, pain relievers such as paracetamol can also help relieve fever and reduce pain caused by pneumonia symptoms.
To treat patients with viral pneumonia, it requires more than just adequate rest and antibiotics. Your doctor will prescribe you more medicines. If there are complications, your doctor may advise you to undergo treatment in the hospital.
Hospital treatment includes:
- Antibiotic injections.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation with breathing exercises for maximum oxygen absorption. This rehabilitation is led by a therapist.
- Added oxygen supply through a tube or oxygen mask to maintain oxygen levels in the bloodstream.
Treatment Cost for Pneumonia
The cost for Pneumonia treatment varies — depending on the type of pneumonia suffered and the dose of medications.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of Pneumonia treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Pneumonia
In general, pneumonia occurs due to bacteria and is not passed from one person to another. However, staying healthy can help prevent pneumonia. This can be done by:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief or tissue when sneezing or coughing.
- Immediately wash the handkerchief or throw away the tissue used to cover your mouth and nose.
- Wash your hands regularly.
Moreover, a healthy lifestyle can also help prevent pneumonia. You can start a healthy lifestyle by quitting smoking or avoiding alcohol consumption.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Pneumonia
Pneumonia can be treated at home. The main home care treatment for pneumonia includes getting enough rest, consuming enough antibiotics and fluids. If you do not have other diseases, you may recover more quickly.
However, some people who are in the risk factors category will have to be hospitalized to prevent complications and symptoms from getting worse.
The risk factors include:
- Babies and young children.
- Patients with other diseases such as asthma, heart problems, kidneys, and more
- Patients with weak immune systems — for example, patients who have had chemotherapy or who have HIV / AIDS.