There are several diseases that seem so commonplace, that the average person tends to believe they have a rudimentary understanding of them and how they affect people. Such is often the case with the common cold, the flu, stomach “bugs”, and pneumonia. However, failing to understand how certain illnesses can progress can result in dire consequences.
In an effort to shed light on one illness, below is an overview of pneumonia: What, exactly, is it? What are the symptoms? How can you treat it?
While our aim is to educate our readers, always seek medical attention when you believe your health has been compromised.
What Is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a lung infection that’s caused by a virus (viral pneumonia) or bacteria (bacterial pneumonia).
Viral Pneumonia is caused by a recent bout with influenza or an upper respiratory virus.
When the infection reaches air sac located inside the lungs, they become inflamed, causing the lungs to fill with fluid. As a result, a patient has difficulty breathing and coughs up phlegm. It is spread in droplets from the infected patient’s coughing, sneezing, or breathing, or by touching infected surfaces.
While an otherwise healthy patient could recover within three weeks of contagion, a patient with a weak immune system or who fails to seek medical attention could experience complications; which can be life-threatening.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
Symptoms of pneumonia vary and can range from mild to severe, depending on the type of infection, the age of the patient, and the patient’s medical history. The most common signs of the illness include:
- Chest pain when coughing
Pneumonia Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery Time
To diagnose pneumonia, your doctor will examine your lungs and breathing patterns with a stethoscope. If there are any abnormal sounds during this exam, the doctor will order X-Rays. If the symptoms are severe, the doctor may also order blood tests or take a sample of the fluids in your chest.
Treatment includes antibiotics and rest. Typically, a patient will start to feel better within several days of starting antibiotics.
If antibiotics do not work well, the doctor will likely order a bronchoscopy to look at the air passages with a tiny camera inside the lungs.
If you’re at high risk, your doctor may order a pulse oximetry to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood.
Home Remedies for Pneumonia
Home remedies for pneumonia are straightforward: Take time off from work or school until you feel better. This will promote faster healing and prevent the spread of the illness to other people. Sleep as much as you want including naps throughout the day. Your body needs the rest to fully heal.
In addition, drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. This will help loosen the mucus in your lungs.
To alleviate throat discomfort, drink hot tea with honey and lemon.
If you have a fever, place a cool wet cloth on your forehead to lower your body temperature from the outside.
Pneumonia in Children
Pneumonia is most serious in children and older adults (over 65 years of age).
Since small children may not be able to communicate the symptoms, it’s important to recognize the signs of pneumonia:
- Wheezing when breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Blue hue in lips and fingernails
Pneumonia in the Elderly
In addition to being at risk for being age 65 or older, senior citizens who spend a lot of time in hospitals or who reside in an assisted living community have a higher likelihood of developing pneumonia.
In this sector of the population, pneumonia could be fatal; therefore, time is of the essence when seeking medical treatment.
Become familiarized with the symptoms listed above and be aware that pneumonia in the elderly may also cause confusion or disorientation. If they are coughing, experiencing chest pain, have a fever, and are having a hard time articulating what they want to say see a doctor on an emergency basis.
If the patient already has a series of health ailments, they may require inpatient treatment until fully healed from pneumonia.
Complications from Pneumonia
Patients who are at high-risk, or who fail to seek medical treatment could face the following complications:
- Breathing issues. If the condition becomes severe, the patient may need hospitalization for oxygen treatment.
- Pleural Effusion. The pleura are thin membranes that line the lungs. They serve as lubrication and make breathing easier. When irritated, they can cause fluid buildup in the lungs. This is known as “pleural effusion” or “water on the lungs”.
- Bacteria in the bloodstream. This is known by several names: sepsis, bacteremia, or blood poisoning.
Risk Factors for Developing Pneumonia
Risk factors for developing pneumonia include a weakened immune system due to an underlying medical condition such as HIV, cancer, or a recent bout with the flu.
The probability of developing pneumonia is higher for people with chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Being hospitalized can also increase the chance of becoming infected with pneumonia, due to the substantial amount of germs in the environment.
- Get vaccinated. Get the vaccine against both influenza and pneumonia. While they may not fully prevent you from getting sick, they can help decrease the length and severity of illness.
- Wash your hands regularly. Doorknobs, office telephones, faucets, shared coffee pots, items in shared lounges and kitchens are all teeming with germs. Wash your hands regularly throughout the day to prevent bacteria from entering your system.
- Strengthen your immune system. You can do this by sleeping well, eating healthy, regular exercise, and reducing stress.
24-Hour Emergency Room Services in Colorado Springs and Texas
If you think you may have pneumonia, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.
Visit us online to find the Complete Care location nearest you.