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Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It involves the tiny air sacs, called alveoli, which are located at the tips of the body’s smallest breathing tubes, called the bronchi. The alveoli are responsible for passing oxygen into the blood.

While anyone who is exposed to the germs that cause pneumonia can develop it, it is more likely to occur in people whose immune system is weakened by an existing illness, such as the flu, cancer, or AIDS, and in people with chronic conditions, such as sickle cell disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, or cystic fibrosis.

People, especially the elderly, who have recently had surgery or suffered a traumatic injury are also more likely to develop pneumonia because they are less able to breathe deeply, cough, and get rid of mucous.

Frequent exposure to cigarette smoke can affect the lungs in ways that make a person more likely to develop pneumonia.

People who have seizures, strokes, abuse drugs or alcohol, or are bedridden or paralyzed are also at greater risk of developing pneumonia.

It is the most common cause of death in patients who are hospitalized for some other reason.

What causes it?

Pneumonia is caused by many different microscopic organisms, including viruses, bacteria, bacteria-like organisms, fungi, and parasites.

In adults, pneumonia is most often caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, and Legionella.

The Legionella bacteria was responsible for a well-known outbreak of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease.

Young children are more likely to develop pneumonia from exposure to a virus, such as the parainfluenza and influenza viruses, respiratory syncytial virus, and adenovirus.

The chickenpox virus can cause pneumonia in adults and children.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae is the cause of walking pneumonia, more likely to occur in older children and younger adults.

Bird droppings, specifically poultry, carry an organism called Chlamydia psittaci, which can also cause pneumonia.

Pneumocystis carinii, which has been classified as a parasite and a fungi, causes pneumonia in people with compromised immune systems, such as those with AIDS or undergoing cancer treatment.

Healthy lungs are free of any type of bacteria or virus because our body has many safeguards that protect the lungs. However, these safeguards can be overwhelmed by exposure to a large number of the organisms that cause pneumonia. People can develop pneumonia after inhaling any of these organisms into the lungs, when the organisms enter the lungs through the bloodstream, or when a nearby infection introduces the organisms into the lungs.

Symptoms are caused by the immune system producing so many antibodies (infection-fighting cells) in the lungs that they damage the lung tissue. The small blood vessels in the lungs then leak fluid into the alveoli, which are less able to provide oxygen to the blood.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of pneumonia are shortness of breath; chest pain, especially when breathing in; coughing; shallow, rapid breathing; and fever and chills. Coughs usually bring up mucus, also called sputum.

The sputum may even be streaked with blood or pus. In serious cases, the patient’s lips or nail bed will appear blue due to lack of oxygen.

What is the treatment?

The elderly, people with underlying medical conditions, and people who are having difficulty breathing are usually treated for pneumonia in a hospital.

The most common treatment is antibiotics, usually given intravenously, oxygen therapy, and intravenous fluids.

Others can be treated with oral antibiotics at home. The type of antibiotic you are given depends upon the type of pneumonia you have.

All patients with pneumonia require complete bed rest and plenty of fluids. Drinking warm fluids can help thin secretions in the lungs so it is easier to cough them up.

Your doctor may also recommend using a humidifier to keep the air you breathe moist. You can help relieve fever and pain with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

However, never give a child aspirin, which can cause a serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.

Most people recover completely from pneumonia. However, some people are more likely to develop complications despite treatment. These include those with an underlying illness, the very young, and the very old.

Self-care tips

Those who are at a higher risk for developing pneumonia can help lower their risk by getting a yearly flu vaccine.

Pneumonia is often a complication of the flu in those who are high risk. People with chronic illnesses can also be vaccinated against certain types of infections that cause pneumonia.

If you are in the high risk category, discuss ways to prevent pneumonia with your doctor. If you have been diagnosed with pneumonia, follow your doctor’s treatment plan to avoid complications. You can help avoid exposure to many illnesses by washing your hands frequently, especially before eating.

The above opinionated views and information serves to educated and informed consumer .  The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. .It should not replaced professional advise and consultation.  A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions 

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