Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs usually caused by an infection. Pneumonia is a serious medical condition and potentially a life-threatening illness. It can result from a variety of causes such as infection (i.e. bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites), chemical and physical injury.
In pneumonia, the alveoli (air-filled sacs in the lungs responsible for absorbing oxygen) are filled with pus and other fluids making it difficult for oxygen to reach the blood. With little oxygen in the blood, your body cells can’t function properly. When the lungs become congested with fluids, breathing becomes difficult.
Pneumonia can affect the lungs in two ways:
- Lobar pneumonia if the lung inflammation or infection affects a section (lobe) of the lung.
- Bronchopneumonia is when the inflammation spreads from the bronchi to other parts of the lung.
- Certain individuals with weaker immune system.
- Adults aged 65 or older
- Young children
- Persons with chronic medical conditions
Symptoms of pneumonia vary greatly depending on the cause and the underlying condition the person has. Typical symptoms associated with pneumonia include:
- Chest pain
- Breathing difficulty
A person with bacterial pneumonia usually presents with a sudden onset of symptoms such as high grade fever, chills, shortness of breath, chest pain and cough with thick, greenish or yellowish phlegm.
For viral pneumonia, the symptoms usually start with a dry non-productive cough, fever, headache, body and muscle pains. Subsequently, a person may become breathless and the cough becomes productive with whitish or clear phlegm.
Children suffering from pneumonia may experience a sudden onset of fever, coughing, labored and rapid breathing (more than 45 breaths a minute), wheezing, bluish skin, lips or fingertips.
Medications to treat pneumonia depend on the germs (bacteria/virus) that cause the infection. If the cause of pneumonia is due to bacteria, antibiotics are usually given. If a virus causes the pneumonia, antibiotics will not be effective. A few viral pneumonia may be treated with antiviral medication.
Pneumonia is usually triggered when a patient’s defense immune system is weakened e.g. a simple viral upper respiratory tract infection or a case of influenza (Flu). The following tips can help keep you healthy:
- Get Vaccinated.
- Wash hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water.
- Lead a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthily with a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and engaging in regular physical activity can help keep your immune system strong and healthy.
- Quit smoking. Smoking damages your lungs and lowers your resistance to fight respiratory infections. Also, smokers who develop pneumonia get more complications than non-smokers.
*Source: Health Promotion Board