Most people, especially in the western world, don’t really think too much about pneumonia. Sure, we know it gets around, and most people likely know someone who has had it before. However, the fact remains that pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children across the world and here at home, pneumonia causes 50,622 deaths each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in spite of these facts, most people know very little about it. Fortunately, we hope after reading this that will all change.
What causes pneumonia?
Pneumonia is tricky in that it doesn’t only have one cause, rather, it can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even a fungus. A common misconception about pneumonia is that it is contagious, which is wrong, however, the germs that cause pneumonia are. It should also be noted that if pneumonia is caused by a virus, it can quickly develop into bacterial pneumonia, which is much more serious.
Who’s at risk?
If you are a healthy individual, chances are your body will win a battle against pneumonia. However, if you are young, old, frail or have your immune system compromised, it could be an incredibly painful and potentially fatal battle.
If you suffer from a chronic disease like HIV/AIDS, diabetes, have kidney problems, heart disease, undergoing chemotherapy, take immunosuppressant drugs or have a lung disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you are at an elevated risk for complications.
What are the symptoms?
It is impossible to treat an ailment if you don’t know you have it, but with pneumonia, the problem lays in that many of its symptoms are similar to that of a cold or flu. So how would you tell the difference?
Generally speaking, colds tend to come on rather slowly, while if you add fever into the mix, it is likely you have the flu. Pneumonia should be viewed as a profession from the two, which occurs after the illness has made its way to lungs. Be on the look for flu-like for the first few days: dry cough, fever, headache, shaking chills, extreme fatigue, a poor appetite, and muscle pain and weakness. This is normally followed by a cough that worsens over time, produces excess mucus and will lead to an increase in fever.
How do you treat it?
Before you can treat pneumonia, the doctor must first verify that you have it, and that is normally done through an X-ray where the fluid-filled sacs in the lungs can be seen. From there, treatment options will vary. Viral pneumonia will likely be prescribed antiviral medication while material or fungal pneumonia will receive antibiotics.
How can I prevent it?
The most effective way to prevent pneumonia is to get the vaccine, and this includes the flu vaccine as one often follows the other. Also, it is best to avoid places where you know that people are sick and in close quarters like hospitals and nursing homes whenever possible. And whether avoid pneumonia or not, it is always best to practice good hand washing regularly as well as coughing into one’s arm, rather than hand.