Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation of lungs, particularly in air sacs, in either or sometimes both the lungs. The condition primarily attacks the microscopic sacs of air which are technically known as alveoli. During the condition the air sacs may get filled with fluid and pus and lead to coughing sometimes with discharge of phlegm or even pus. Pneumonia may range from mild to severe; it is generally addressed seriously. The condition is considerably common as it affects around 450 million individuals every year globally, that makes approx 7% of the entire population. Out of this around 4 million affected individuals die of pneumonia.
The condition was regarded as “the captain of the men of death” by William Osler in 19th Century. However, introduction of vaccines and antibiotic treatments in 20th century has significantly increased the rate of survival. The condition is said to be extremely fatal in underdeveloped countries but developed countries have lesser rate of death attributed to the disease. Pneumonia is also considered as the leading cause of death in aged people, children and chronically pneumonic individuals.
Is pneumonia contagious?
Yes, pneumonia is contagious to certain extent. The germs associated with the condition may get transmitted from affected individual to other. However, it is recorded that germs do not cause the condition in most cases but they may lead to a mild form of infection such as upper respiratory infections like common cold, flu, etc. These germs may aggravate to cause pneumonia. The condition remains in its contagious mode for around two weeks. It is said to be extremely contagious when the symptoms of the condition is at peak. The virus and bacteria that causes the condition can be easily transmitted through air or touch. Usually these infections enter a person’s body through nose, ear or mouth.
Causes of Pneumonia
Pneumonia is primarily caused due to bacteria, virus and fungal infection. Usually a person may get affected by inhaling air containing relevant germs. These germs settle in lungs, particular in small air sacs known as alveoli where they also multiply. The body then responds and sends white blood cells to deal with infection cause which causes sac to get filled with fluid or/and pus leading to the condition.
There are various possibilities through with the condition can affect an individual. In some cases people being hospitalized for short or long period may get affected with the condition. This is known as hospital acquired pneumonia. People affected with this form of the disease may face difficulty treating it as the bacteria causing the condition is likely to have immunity against antibiotics which makes the condition serious. People on ventilators are at increased risk of suffering from this condition.
The disease can also infect individuals who have been under care facilities or were treated in outpatient clinical settings such as kidney dialysis center. Similar to the latter form, even this type of bacteria may be resistant to antibiotics.
Symptoms of pneumonia
Symptoms of pneumonia may range from benign to serious in accordance with several factors such as germ type causing the condition, comprehensive health condition or age, etc. Benign symptoms of the condition are usually those that are experienced in flu or common cold, but they persist for longer time. Some of the symptoms of the condition include:
- Chills or tremor
- Cough sometimes with thick fluid discharge
- Pain in chest, especially while breathing deeply of coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in muscles
- Queasiness and vomiting
It is also said that people with weak immune system, older individuals or individuals with degraded health condition may also suffer from anomalously reduced body temperature than normal. The infection may be initially nondescript in newborns. However, even if they show any signs it may include restlessness, fever, vomiting, tiredness, difficult breathing, not eating and cough, etc. Older individuals with the condition may also experience alterations in mental awareness.
Diagnosis of pneumonia fundamentally starts in the clinic itself wherein the doctor may ask you about symptoms and perform basic physical examination. Using a stethoscope he may track your heart beat and try to listen to lungs. If there is any thick liquid in the lung then the doctor determines it by presence of bubbling or crackling noise. If your doctor suspects prevalence of pneumonia he may suggest further tests for confirmation. These tests may include
- Blood test
- Pulse oximetry
- Sputum Test
- Pleural fluid culture test
- CT scan
Treatment for Pneumonia
The treatment for the disease is focused on curing infection, dealing with symptoms as well as preventing complications. Certain kind of pneumonia which is acquired in the community can be treated at home through prescribed medications. In such a case the patient will be recommended regular x-ray tests or other screenings to track the progress of the condition.
Usually medicines such as antibiotics are suggested for patient if the condition is caused due to bacterial infection. If it is a virus driven condition then certain antiviral medicines may prove to be helpful. In this case the symptoms may take approx 1 to 3 weeks to alleviate. Ibuprofen or aspirin may be prescribed to suppress fever. It is essential to provide rest to the patient and constant coughing seems to be a barrier; hence, cough medicines are also often suggested to the patient. To determine the best suitable treatment for pneumonia it is crucial to consult a doctor and seek advice.