Pneumonia is a lung infection that often develops as a result of influenza (“flu”). It is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
But did you know that pneumonia can also come from having chicken pox, conjunctivitis, or gum disease?

In fact, the conditions below are only a few of the many surprising conditions that can lead to pneumonia.

  • Measles
  • The common cold
  • Acid reflux
  • An ear infection
  • A sinus infection
  • Impaired swallowing ability
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • An organ transplant
  • A recent hospitalization

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How do you get pneumonia?

Pneumonia develops when an organism such as a bacteria, a virus, a mycoplasma, or fungi from the environment ends up in your lungs. In otherwise healthy people, the body’s natural defense mechanisms can often prevent the organism from causing a lung infection, or pneumonia. However, some people may not have the defenses needed to prevent an infection. These include:

  • People who are older (usually considered 65+)
  • Young children (babies are particularly susceptible to pneumonia from RSV – respiratory syncytial virus)
  • People with weak immune systems
  • People with existing lung disease
  • Smokers

An organism can get into the lungs in several ways:

  • Through inhaled droplets from an infected person, for example, when they sneeze or cough.
  • By traveling upwards from the stomach, as in acid reflux or gastroparesis.
  • By aspiration after vomiting.
  • By aspiration during eating, particularly in someone with impaired swallowing ability.
  • By traveling through the bloodstream.
  • By migrating from the sinuses, nose or throat, particularly during an upper respiratory infection. Upper respiratory infections are often caused by touching something with germs, and then rubbing an eye or nose, or eating something with your fingers. It is always important to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.

The infective organism causes inflammation within the lungs. This inflammation causes fluid, and sometimes pus, to build up in the alveoli, which are tiny air sacs that enable oxygen to get into the bloodstream. The fluid or pus prevents oxygen from getting into the bloodstream and therefore, to the rest of the body.

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What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

Common symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain

However, symptoms will vary depending on the organism and the patient. In fact, very elderly people may initially have only low body temperature and confusion. Babies may feed poorly, grunt, cough, or use the muscles around their rib cages to breathe. A person in strong physical condition with a mild case might have minimal symptoms that resolve quickly. On the other hand, pneumonia often causes death or complicated symptoms with long-lasting respiratory problems.

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How is pneumonia treated?

Treatment depends on identifying the specific organism that caused the pneumonia. The doctor will examine you and listen to your history, including determining where you might have acquired the illness.

Pneumonia may be categorized as community-acquired, hospital-acquired, or ventilator-acquired, among others. These categories help to narrow down the likely organism and enable the doctor to order the most appropriate lab tests.

If you have bacterial pneumonia you will be given the most effective antibiotic against the specific bacteria. Taking the wrong antibiotic can have very dangerous consequences, so it is important not to buy one over the counter, no matter what the pharmacist recommends. Only your doctor can do tests to determine which organism is causing the pneumonia.

Some people have both bacterial and viral pneumonia. Viral pneumonia will not respond to antibiotic treatment. However, other types of medications are available if the virus is identified quickly. It is important to see your doctor as soon as possible if you think you might have any type of pneumonia so that the source can be identified and treatment can begin.

In addition to medication, treatment may include:

  • Anti-fever medication
  • Pain relief
  • Oxygen
  • Respiratory therapy
  • Fluids
  • Rest
  • Nutrition
  • Observation

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How can pneumonia be prevented?

pneumonia lung infection flu immune system healthcare halza traveling with medical records

Many cases of pneumonia can be prevented through vaccination but recommendations on what shots to get vary from country to country.

PCV13

  • Protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria
  • Given to children under age 2 and adults over age 65 in the U.S.

PPSV23

  • Protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria
  • Given to adults over age 65 in the U.S. a year after receiving PCV13
  • Also recommended for smokers aged 19-64

Both vaccines may also be recommended for adults age 19-64 with certain medical conditions.

The flu vaccine is recommended annually for almost everyone over age 6 months. Other recommended vaccines in the U.S. that can help to prevent pneumonia include:

People who are bedridden or hospitalized should follow doctor’s or nurse’s instructions on oral care, getting out of bed, elevating the head of the bed, and doing breathing exercises or coughing to move secretions out of the lungs.

Other important ways to prevent pneumonia and other diseases include washing hands frequently or using alcohol-based sanitizer, good nutrition, sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and regular medical check-ups.

How Halza Helps

Better manage your health with the Halza app. Store, track & share your medical data. Upload important records like blood tests, chest x-rays, sputum test reports, and more to get a complete overview of your medical history for a better diagnosis at the doctor’s clinic.

If you are taking medicine to treat your condition, turn on medication reminders to keep track of the right doses. The Halza app also lets you set reminders for follow up doctor’s appointments, taking care of the recovery process for you.

Download Halza today!

 

Sources: CDC, 2MedscapeJAMA Network