During winter, when the weather turns sharper with icy temperatures, freezing air and darker skies, the mess of germs sparks the start of a new season of diseases that sweep through every corner of the world and the threat of catching widespread respiratory infections goes higher. Respiratory infections – one of the most leading concerns of all the nations, affecting nearly 922,000 people per year, 2,500 per day, 100 per hour and 1 per every 35 seconds. One such respiratory infection that makes people to battle for air is Pneumonia.
What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a sneaky disease that makes breathing incredibly difficult. It develops with a nagging cough and tows all the energy in your body with classic symptoms such as fever, and discoloured (green-brown) mucus.
In other words, Pneumonia is an inflammatory lung infection caused due to inhalation of harmful microorganisms (either viral, bacterial or fungal), affecting the alveoli of lungs by filling them with mucus.
Who are at risk of pneumonia?
Anyone can get pneumonia, but few people are at higher risk:
- ● Infants from birth to age two years, and older people of age more than 65
- ● People who smoke, misuse certain illicit drugs, who are on certain medication or consume excessive alcohol
- ● People with certain chronic health conditions that weakened the immunity such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, stroke or heart failure
- ● People with restricted mobility ( such as bedridden)
Causes of Pneumonia:
The majority of cases are due to airborne microbes(bacteria or viruses) but, the susceptibility to pneumonia depends on three factors:
● How healthy you are: Unlike upper respiratory infection, which is limited to nose and throat, pneumonia-causing pathogens have to evade the immune system and travel into the lungs. It is much easier for them to sneak by when the immune system is exhausted from trying to fend off other infection or is compromised by a chronic disease. That is why a bout of the flu or other viral infection can set the stage for pneumonia.
● Age: The immune response becomes less robust as you age. The risk of pneumonia in older people is higher, it is important to be vaccinated and get flu shots for pneumonia.
● Environment: Though pneumonia can happen anytime, the risk of pneumonia rises during winter, or when there is a flu epidemic in your area. Pneumonia risk is also elevated for people who are hospitalised because they are likely to have depressed immune systems and are exposed to more germs.
Symptoms of Pneumonia:
Pneumonia symptoms can be mild to life-threatening. The symptoms of pneumonia are due to body’s inflammatory response which include:
When it is a viral pneumonia, the signs are likely to resemble those of the flu:
- ● Fever
- ● Dry cough
- ● Muscle aches
- ● Wheezing
- ● Fatigue
The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia are usually more dramatic:
- ● Fever with cycles of chills
- ● Flushed cheeks
- ● Body aches
- ● Wracking coughs
- ● Rusty or yellow mucus
- ● Difficulty in breathing
- ● Rattling lungs that sound like rales and crackles
- ● Profuse sweating
- ● Bluish lips and nails
- ● Confusion
The treatment for pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia, severity and general health. Antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal drugs are used to treat pneumonia, depending on the specific cause of the condition. Your doctor may also recommend over-the-counter (OTC) medication to relieve the pain and fever if needed. If the symptoms are very severe, then the doctor would prescribe you:
- ● Intravenous antibiotics
- ● Respiratory therapy
- ● Oxygen therapy
Pneumonia is a leading cause of death worldwide, so it is important to get examined. If you notice any symptoms, even low-grade symptoms, it’s essential to consult a doctor, because the longer you wait, the more difficult your pneumonia may be to treat.
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