Pneumonia – Causes and Treatments

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In the United States, pneumonia is the sixth principal cause of death. Pneumonia is a respiratory condition where viral infection is present on one or both lungs. Usual causes of pneumonia are viruses, bacteria, or fungi. Each year, more than 3 million people in the United States contract pneumonia. More than half a million patients get admitted to hospitals for treatment. Most patients do recover from the illness, but approximately 5% will result to death.

Bacteria-caused pneumonia is likely to be the most serious out of all the different types of pneumonia. Adults often fall victims to this type of pneumonia. Virus-caused pneumonia is also common, especially among infants and young children.

Symptoms of this disease are cough with yellowish or greenish mucus, fever, shortness of breath especially when climbing stairs, and chills. Other symptoms include headache, excessive sweating, fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness, and chest pains when breathing or coughing.

Treatment of pneumonia involves the doctor’s decision whether the patient needs to be confined in the hospital, or just receive home treatment. If treated in the hospital, the patient will be given antibiotics, fluids, breathing treatments, and oxygen therapy. The first line of defense is antibiotics. Intake of these will abruptly start as soon as a patient is diagnosed with pneumonia. However, if the disease is caused by virus, antibiotics won’t work. Doctor then will prescribe intake of antiviral medicines.

If a patient is sent home, aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen or ibuprofen will be prescribed to reduce fever. Drinking plenty of water and other fluids will help dilute the phlegm. Of course, the patient needs to have plenty of rest.

To prevent pneumonia, frequent washing of hands is extremely important, especially after using the toilet, after changing the baby’s diapers, after blowing the nose, and before cooking or eating. For households with several residents, it is important to invest on touchless hygiene systems like touchless dispensers, automatic hand dryers, and hygienic door handles to avoid cross contamination and disease transfer.

There should be absolutely NO SMOKING, especially when there are children or elders present. Tobacco damages lungs, impairing their ability to defer infections.

Indoor air quality must always be improved by getting rid of airborne contaminants like germs, bacteria, and viruses. This can be done through air purifiers or air washers equipped with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

Last but not least, children should be given vaccines against pneumonia. Vaccines could also be administered to the elderly, and people with chronic diseases.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Pulmonary Pathology

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