Pneumonia is a common and potentially life-threatening respiratory infection that affects millions of people worldwide. It can be caused by various pathogens and manifests in several types, each with its unique characteristics. It is an inflammatory condition of the lungs characterised by the accumulation of pus, mucus, and other fluids in the air sacs. These accumulations hinder the normal exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, leading to severe respiratory distress. Pneumonia can affect people of all ages, but it is particularly dangerous for young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems.
In this regard, Dr. Vishal Sehgal, who is the President, at Portea Medical said, “Pneumonia, a prevalent respiratory infection, poses a significant concern, particularly due to the current surge in associated risk factors and causes. In the context of festive indulgence, recent data suggests a spike in pneumonia cases in India due to binge eating and irregular sleep patterns, compromising the immune system’s resilience. Moreover, sudden weather fluctuations, exacerbated by increasing smog levels in Indian cities, have contributed to respiratory vulnerabilities, intensifying the risk of pneumonia.”
“Additionally, the looming threat of the Nipah virus has raised additional concerns, warranting heightened vigilance and preventive measures. One must seek immediate medical consultation if symptoms like prolonged fever, headache, sore throat, dry cough, with greenish-coloured mucus or drops of blood, muscle pain, loss of appetite, weakness are witnessed.”
Types of Pneumonia:
Talking about the types of pneumonia, Dr. Bandana Mishra who is the Head of the Department and Senior Consultant at Pulmonogy Department, Sanar International Hospitals mentioned the following:
- Community-Acquired Pneumonia (CAP):
Community-acquired pneumonia is one of the most common types and typically originates outside healthcare facilities. It can be caused by various pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The symptoms include high fever, cough, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. Streptococcus pneumoniae is a common bacterial culprit in CAP.
- Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia (HAP):
Hospital-acquired pneumonia, also known as nosocomial pneumonia, is contracted during a hospital stay. Patients with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable. HAP is often caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Preventative measures, such as strict hygiene protocols, are essential to reduce the risk.
- Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP):
VAP is a subset of HAP that occurs in individuals on mechanical ventilation. The breathing tube can introduce pathogens into the lungs. It is crucial to maintain rigorous sterile techniques to prevent VAP in critical care settings.
Aspiration pneumonia results from inhaling foreign substances, such as food, liquids, or vomit, into the lungs. This can occur when the gag reflex is impaired or due to excessive alcohol or drug consumption. People with neurological conditions, like stroke victims, are at higher risk.
Atypical pneumonia is typically caused by pathogens other than typical bacteria. Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydophila pneumoniae, and Legionella pneumophila are common culprits. Symptoms are often milder than those of typical pneumonia, and it is sometimes referred to as “walking pneumonia.”
Fungal pneumonia is less common and often affects individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS. Fungi like Candida and Aspergillus can invade the lungs and cause serious infections.
Viral pneumonia is caused by various viruses, including the influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and the COVID-19 virus. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and complications can be life-threatening.
Symptoms And Treatment For Pneumonia In Children
Dr Pradeep Suryawanshi, who is the Director – Neonatology & Paediatrics, at Sahyadri Super Speciality Hospital, Pune said, “Children’s pneumonia is a respiratory illness that can be brought on by viruses, bacteria, or fungus. To safeguard the wellbeing of children, parents and other carers must be able to identify the signs and comprehend the available treatments. Pneumonia in children can manifest with various symptoms, and the severity may differ from one case to another.”
Common symptoms of pneumonia in children as mentioned by him include:
- Children who have pneumonia can present with a wide range of symptoms, each with varying degrees of severity, have a high fever, which is frequently the first sign of the sickness, and a chronic cough, which appears later in the illness.
- Breathing problems are also common, with fast, shallow breathing in addition to dyspnea.
- Some kids could have pain or discomfort in their chest, especially when inhaling deeply, and they might make audible wheezing noises when they breathe, especially when they exhale.
- In extreme situations, low oxygen levels can cause the skin around the lips or fingertips to go blue.
- Furthermore, children who have pneumonia may have extraordinary fatigue, lethargic behaviour, and decreased appetite.
- In addition to respiratory problems, gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting or diarrhoea may also appear.
- It is critical to understand that the way these symptoms manifest might vary depending on the age of the kid and the particular cause, underscoring the importance of receiving careful, customised medical attention.
The treatment options suggested by him are:
- Antibiotics for Bacterial Pneumonia: If the pneumonia is bacterial in origin, antibiotics will be prescribed by a doctors. Completing the full course of antibiotics is essential, even if the child’s condition improves before the medication is finished.
- Supportive Care: Children with pneumonia may need supportive treatment, such as fever-reducing drugs and enough hydration, regardless of the underlying cause. To keep blood oxygen levels at a sufficient level, oxygen treatment could be required in certain situations.
- Hospitalization: Hospitalisation may be necessary in severe cases of pneumonia, particularly if the child has problems, a high temperature, or major breathing difficulties. Being admitted to the hospital enables careful observation, as well as the delivery of oxygen treatment and intravenous antibiotics as needed.
- Management of Viral Pneumonia: The primary goal of therapy for pneumonia brought on by viruses such the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or influenza is to control symptoms. In certain situations, antiviral drugs may be taken into consideration, particularly for severe influenza infections.
Treatment Of Pneumonia:
Dr. Vishal Sehgal said, “Pneumonia treatment can include medications like cough suppressants, antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia, and fever-reducing medicines, and in severe cases, hospitalisation may be necessary for additional support like oxygen and breathing treatments. As the need for effective management and relief methods intensifies, the role of home healthcare and specialized interventions like physiotherapy has gained prominence in ensuring comprehensive recovery for pneumonia patients.”
“Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in pneumonia treatment by promoting mucus clearance, enhancing respiratory function to prevent respiratory failure, and improving muscle strength and endurance through mobility exercises. Techniques employed in pneumonia physiotherapy include chest physiotherapy for airway clearance, osteopathic manipulative treatment, active cycle of breathing techniques, and instrumental methods, such as non-invasive ventilation and high-frequency chest wall oscillations, to facilitate airway clearance and provide respiratory support,” he added.
Tips To Prevent Pneumonia In Children And Older People
Dr Ashok K Rajput, who is a Senior Consultant, Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine at the CK Birla Hospital (R), Delhi said, “Pneumonia is a serious lung infection that can be life-threatening, especially for children and older adults. It is usually caused by bacteria or viruses and can be spread through coughing and sneezing. Prevention strategies include vaccination against common pneumonia-causing agents like flu, pneumococcus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Regular handwashing, maintaining a distance from sick individuals, and practicing respiratory hygiene by covering coughs and sneezes contribute to reducing transmission. For smokers, quitting is essential as smoking weakens the lungs immunity. Adopting a healthy lifestyle with a nutritious diet and regular exercise boosts the immune system, reducing susceptibility to infections.”
“Parents can further safeguard children by breastfeeding to enhance immune system development, avoiding second-hand smoke exposure, and ensuring timely vaccinations. Older adults should manage chronic health conditions carefully, as conditions like asthma and diabetes increase pneumonia risk. Adequate sleep supports the body’s infection-fighting mechanisms and staying hydrated aids in mucus clearance from the lungs. Overall, adherence to these preventive measures significantly contributes to protecting vulnerable populations from pneumonia,” he added.
[Disclaimer: The information provided in the article, including treatment suggestions shared by doctors, is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.]
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