Pneumonia

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What is it?

An individual with pneumonia has an inflammatory lung condition or, more simply, a lung infection. It generally affects the little tiny air pouches known as the alveoli. Every year about 7% of the world’s population get pneumonia. A couple centuries ago, pneumonia meant almost certain death. Nowadays, it’s only the elderly, children and chronically ill that are at mortal risk.

Causes

The causes of pneumonia can be viral, bacterial, fungal, idiopathic or parasitic. About a third of pneumonia cases are the result of viruses.

Viruses like respiratory syncytial virus, coronaviruses, rhinoviruses, influenza virus, parainfluenza, adenovirus and even herpes simplex virus can result in pneumonia. Many of these viruses are seasonal, so how you contract pneumonia can vary.

Bacterial causes make up about half incidents of pneumonia. The most common bacteria, known to cause pneumonia is streptococcus pneumoniae. Others include, chlamydophila pneumoniae, haemophilus influenza, gram-negative bacilli, mycoplasma pneumoniae, moraxella catarrhalis, staphylococcus aureus, coxiella burnetti, and legionella pneumophila, to name a few. There are risk factors involved with many of these bacteria. For instance, drinking is linked with streptococcus pneumoniae. Birds are connected with chlamydophila pneumoniae and farm animals with coxiella burnetti.

Pneumonia caused by fungus is very uncommon. It generally only happens to individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those suffering from AIDS. Known fungal causes of pneumonia are: cryptococcus neoformans, histoplasmosis capsulatum, coccidioides immitis, pneumocystis jiroveci, blastomyces and coccidioidomycosis. Cases of fungal pneumonia are generally found in the southern United States.

Types of idiopathic causes include: organizing pneumonia, diffuse alveolar damage, nonspecific interstitial pneumonia, desquamative interstitial pneumonia and lymphocytic interstitial pneumonia, just to name a few.

Parasites that are known to cause pneumonia include: strongyloides stercoralis, toxoplasma gondii, plasmodium malariae, and ascaris lumbricoides. These parasites are spread through the help of insects, or they are ingested or pass through the skin. Parasites generally only cause pneumonia in third world countries. However, they can affect those living in first world countries (i.e. travelers and immigrants).

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Symptoms

Many of the common symptoms for pneumonia include: fever, shortness of breath, chills, productive cough, increased respiratory rate and chest pain. In the elderly, confusion is a unique sign. Babies’ symptoms can include: persistent vomiting, decreased thirst, temperature extremes, blue skin, convulsions and losing consciousness. WebMD says that some of the symptoms connected with viral and bacterial causes of pneumonia differ. They can include, diarrhea, abdominal pain and ear infections.

Diagnosis

WebMD states that through bloodwork, checking your mucus and having x-rays done, your doctor can determine whether or not you have pneumonia. However, it is up to you to approach your doctor if you have any of the symptoms mentioned earlier. Depending on how sick you are, or if you fall under the “at-risk” category (i.e. you’re elderly, a child or have a weakened immune system) there may be a lot more tests involved.

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Treatment

If your virus is caused by a virus, you’ll generally just treat it as you would a cold or fever. Stay at home and make sure you get plenty of rest. Make sure you keep hydrated and refrain from smoking, drinking or anything else that might compromise you getting better.

If your pneumonia is bacterially caused then you will be put on antibiotics by your doctor. Taking the antibiotics will almost surely cure you of your pneumonia. You just have to remember to take all of your medication, right down to the last pill. As well, keep hydrated and get as much rest as possible. Also, refrain from smoking and drinking. If your antibiotics cause more pain, contact your doctor immediately.

If you are elderly, a child or have a weakened immune system you may have to spend some time in the hospital.