Pneumonia: How To Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

Today pneumonia is primarily associated with COVID-19, but it can also show up on its own. Let’s look at the causes, symptoms, and methods to prevent pneumonia.

Dr. Irene

Doctorate in Medicine, Infectious disease doctor

Pneumonia is a lung infection that affects millions of people around the world every year. It causes inflammation of the alveoli of the lungs, which causes fluid to accumulate. This can make it difficult for the oxygen we breathe to enter the bloodstream.

If there is too little oxygen in the blood, the cells of the body will not be able to work properly, which can lead to serious consequences and even death. Today pneumonia is primarily associated with COVID-19, but it can also show up on its own. Let’s look at the causes, symptoms, and methods to prevent pneumonia.

What are the types of pneumonia?

The more common types include hospital (nosocomial) and community-acquired pneumonia. The different types depend on the type of infectious agent, which could be viral, bacterial, fungal, or mycoplasma. The type can also vary based on the volume of lung lesions: lobar or segmental; unilateral or bilateral. Treatment varies based on the type—for example, bacterial pneumonia is usually treated with antibiotics, but no antibiotics are needed to treat viral pneumonia.

Symptoms of pneumonia

How your body reacts to pneumonia depends on the type, age, and overall health. Symptoms can range from mild ones that you hardly notice to severe symptoms that require hospitalization. The disease has an acute onset including fever, cough, sharp or stabbing pain in the chest aggravated by a deep breath or cough, weakness, and chills.

Dyspnea may also be a symptom. Other possible symptoms include coughing up mucus, fever, sweating, rapid and shallow breathing, nausea, and vomiting—which show up especially in young children. Finally, loss of appetite, decreased energy and fatigue, malaise, or a general feeling of weakness and confusion—especially in the elderly — are all possible symptoms and reasons to see a doctor.

Who is at risk?

How do we get pneumonia? One factor is whether the person suffered from hypothermia as a result of a viral infection at some point in his or her life, as this weakens the immune system. The refusal to vaccinate against the causative agent of community-acquired pneumonia can result in pneumococcus.

Children under 5 years old, elderly people 65 years and older, pregnant women, people and with chronic diseases are very vulnerable to pneumonia. Asthma, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases make people more vulnerable to pneumonia.

Additionally, heart disease, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and chronic kidney diseases make people more susceptible to pneumonia. Scientists have found that smokers (both active and passive) are more likely to get sick than non-smokers.

How to avoid getting sick

As silly as it sounds, washing your hands, regularly disinfecting surfaces you frequently touch, eating healthy, resting, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking can all help reduce your risk of getting sick. And even if you do get sick, healthy habits will help you recover more quickly.

Don't forget about vaccines

Pneumococcal pneumonia is now successfully prevented by vaccination. The most important argument in favor of vaccination against pneumococcal infections is the growing resistance of pathogens to antibiotics. Having said this, with the development of the disease, antibacterial drugs will simply be ineffective.

It is imperative that people with pulmonary diseases, reduced immunity, or who regularly suffer from colds get vaccinated against pneumonia.

Pneumonia is one of the most common causes of infant mortality, which is one of the reasons why the anti-pneumococcal vaccine is included in the national immunization schedule in Russia.

Additionally, a weakened immune system and recent respiratory viral infections such as colds, laryngitis, and flu are common causes of pneumonia. Therefore, by getting a flu shot, you indirectly are protected from pneumonia.

One exception

According to the World Health Organization, the most common symptom that results in a severe COVID-19 diagnosis is severe pneumonia. At the onset of the disease, the patient develops ARVI symptoms: runny nose, cough, fever, and sore throat, then the inflammatory process “descends” into the lungs while lung tissue and vessels are destroyed, blood clots are formed, and bacterial flora is involved in the inflammatory process.

Fever, cough, and shortness of breath occur, and the lungs are filled with oxygen. The clinical difference between COVID-pneumonia and the more “usual” type of pneumonia is COVID-19 includes shortness of breath, a rapid decrease in saturation, and oxygen saturation of the lungs. On X-ray images, specific changes include inflammatory agents that are accumulations of cellular elements in body tissue with a mixture of blood and lymph that have a "frosted glass" effect.

23 March 2021

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