Contributed by: Priyaish Srivastava
The lungs are a pair of air-filled and spongy organs located on both sides of the chest that plays the main part in the process of respiration. The lungs are one of the most vital organs that provide oxygen to every cell in the body to help them live while removing waste gases such as carbon dioxide, which is a by-product produced when the cells perform metabolism.
Lung diseases are one of the most leading ailments in India, amongst which pneumonia is the most prevalent, as it accounts for approximately 23% of all global cases, with a fatality rate between 14% and 30%.
Pneumonia is a contagious disease that causes lung inflammation due to bacterial, viral, or fungal infections, and fills pus and fluid in the tiny air sacs (known as alveoli) inside the lungs, obstructing oxygen intake which leads to difficult and painful breathing.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pneumonia is the single largest infectious disease that leads to most children fatality, worldwide. Some research studies also prove that pneumonia is equally severe for people aged 65 or above as it is for infants and young children.
This article will take you through the causes of pneumonia, its symptoms, and the preventive measures that can help manage the condition.
What are the types and causes of pneumonia?
The air you breathe consists of numerous bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can affect the lungs and cause pneumonia. The condition can also develop in those individuals who are addicted to smoking, as it weakens the lungs and obstructs breathing.
Some common types of pneumonia and their causes include:
- Community-acquired pneumonia
It is the most common type of pneumonia and the infection is dependent on community vectors. The causes of community-acquired pneumonia include:
Bacteria: Streptococcus pneumoniae and mycoplasma pneumoniae are the primary bacterial cause of pneumonia which can spread when the infected people cough or sneeze.
Viral infections: Viruses such as influenza (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and rhinoviruses (common cold), can give rise to respiratory tract infections and cause pneumonia. The respiratory tract includes the nose, throat, trachea (windpipe), and lungs
- Hospital-acquired pneumonia
Hospital-acquired pneumonia is a type of pneumonia that affects while staying in a hospital for any other illness. Hospital-acquired pneumonia is a serious condition because the person is already sick and may have a weak or compromised immune system. People who are on ventilators (breathing machines) are at a high risk of hospital-acquired pneumonia.
- Long-term care facility-acquired pneumonia
This condition develops where a person is under long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, outpatients, or extended-stay clinics.
- Aspiration pneumonia
Aspiration pneumonia is a condition that develops when solid food, liquids, saliva, or vomit goes down from the trachea into the lungs, and not from the oesophagus to the stomach. If these substances are not coughed out, they remain in the lungs and can cause infections that develop pneumonia.
Symptoms of pneumonia
The symptoms of pneumonia are different in every person and depend upon factors like age, cause of infection, and severity of the illness.
Usual symptoms that any person can manifest include:
- Fever, cough, and chills
- Discomfort and unusual sweating
- Persistent pain in the chest which increases while coughing, sneezing, or deep breathing
- Bluish tint on the lips and/or nails due to lack of oxygen
- Unwillingness to eat
- Breathing problems like rapid breathing and nasal flaring (widening of the nose)
Infants and toddlers may manifest the following symptoms if they have pneumonia:
- Difficulty eating
- Breathing problems like making grunting sounds while breathing, inward movement of the chest while breathing in (chest moves outwards when breathing in) and temporarily halted breathing, while the toddler is asleep
- Decreased urination
- The skin turning pale
- Unusual restlessness
Newborns are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia as they can get affected by bacteria present in the birth canal. Viruses are the main cause of pneumonia in young children, adults, and older people.
Preventive measures to manage pneumonia
The preventive measures that can help manage pneumonia include:
- Getting vaccinated against pneumonia
- People aged 65 or above and children aged 5 or younger are more prone to pneumonia, as they have a weak immune system. Being attentive about their health, and immediately consulting a doctor if they manifest symptoms can help manage the condition in its initial stage, and prevent its worsening
- Avoid exposure to dust, chemicals, toxic fumes, or other environmental factors that can damage and weaken the lungs. Damaged lungs are more susceptible to pneumonia.
- Stay away from poor lifestyle choices that can damage your lungs. These include smoking, alcohol abuse, poor posture (slumping and slouching), lack of physical activity, and an unhealthy diet
- A weak immune system increases the chances of getting afflicted by pneumonia. Take measures like eating healthy foods and exercising regularly to boost immunity
The following diseases can also increase the risk of pneumonia, thus taking measures to prevent these diseases can help prevent pneumonia:
Some home remedies to manage pneumonia:
- Get lots of rest
- Stay hydrated
- Don’t leave your home or room until the symptoms go away
- Take warm baths
Pneumonia is a lung ailment that should be countered in its initial stage or it can have a chronic or fatal impact. By avoiding the aforementioned causes and taking necessary preventive measures upon experiencing the symptoms, the condition can be managed easily. If the symptoms are persistent, we recommend you seek immediate medical attention and get diagnosed at the earliest.
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