Lung safety as a priority: Are you aware of your risk for Pneumonia?

pneumonia in young adults world pneumonia day

Pneumonia is a lung disease which can be mild to severe. Although pneumonia can occur in anyone, it occurs with increased frequency in individuals whose immune systems are deficient, in children, and in elderly people, who are more prone to this. Pneumonia can be seen without any symptoms, which is called walking pneumonia. Possible causes of Pneumonia are bacteria, viruses, mycoplasmas, fungi, and infected foreign material can all cause Pneumonia. It is possible for Pneumonia to be transmitted when airborne germs from an afflicted individual are breathed in by anyone else.

Risk factors

Even with ever-growing healthcare programs and an increased focus on health, many people across different walks and stages of life are at risk of Pneumonia. The following are a few of the most commonly seen risk factors for Pneumonia, as seen in patients:

1. Viral infections (damaged cilia which will fail to clear the secretions) 

2. Age (elderly patients face issues in swallowing, and decreased immunity) 

3. Alcoholism (depress coughing and epiglottis function) 

4. Patients who smoke or have underlying lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, congestive heart failure, and lung cancer, diabetes are also vulnerable, owing to abnormalities in lung structure and function. 

5. Cold weather - Dry mucous membranes and person-to-person spread is common in Winter

6. Immunocompromised patients are always at risk.

7. Hospital-acquired Pneumonia is also common.

Signs and symptoms

Pneumonia symptoms may present themselves suddenly, or in a slow and progressive manner. In most cases, the symptoms of Pneumonia mimic that of the common flu (Influenza) or other common lung infections, such as Bronchitis.

The main signs and symptoms of pneumonia are as follows:

  • Cough that produces phlegm (sputum) which is either yellow, blood-stained or rust coloured
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Fever with chills
  • Headache
  • Excessive sweating
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Muscle pain, weakness and tiredness.

Diagnosis

Your primary care physician would take the following steps to diagnose Pneumonia

  • A detailed history of the individual will be taken. 
  • A sputum test will also be done to know the organism responsible for the infection. 
  • Chest X-ray to rule out other possible causes and to confirm pneumonia. 
  • Lung function tests and some blood tests like CBP, ESR, electrolytes, Liver Function Test, and Renal Function Test to know the underlying cause. 
  • The pulse oximetry test determines the effectiveness of the lungs by measuring the oxygen flow through their blood

Treatment and prevention

Treatment always depends on the cause. If you have bacterial pneumonia, you’ll get antibiotics. In most cases, Pneumonia caused by viral strains does not require antibiotics. Antiviral medicines are prescribed instead. Recovery from Pneumonia typically takes one to three weeks. Symptoms such as body pain, fever and cough can be alleviated with medications, adequate rest, a nutritious diet and intake of plenty of fluids to improve overall health. Hospitalization and Oxygen (O2) therapy are advised in certain critical conditions.

In closing

Although it is fairly difficult to prevent the occurrence of Pneumonia completely, a variety of parameters and steps can be used to reduce its incidence. Adequate nutrition, dental hygiene, maintaining hygiene such as washing hands frequently and thoroughly after blowing one's nose, going to the bathroom, and before eating, and not smoking - are elements of a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle that can help reduce people’s risk of contracting Pneumonia. Staying away from individuals who are sick, wearing a mask when cleaning dusty areas, and getting vaccinated against pneumonia such as the flu shot will also help. Treatment of the underlying cause is always important to prevent relapse.

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