With flu season in full swing, it is essential to discuss a life-threatening complication of influenza known as pneumonia. Unfortunately, pneumonia can be a severe consequence of the flu, but it does not only stem from the flu virus. Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of bacteria, fungi, or viruses, which makes pneumonia challenging to treat until the underlying cause can be distinguished. While people of any age can be diagnosed with pneumonia, it is much more prevalent in babies and those over the age of 65. However, people with a compromised immune system or a lung disease could be more prone to developing pneumonia. So, what are the symptoms of pneumonia, and how do we prevent or significantly reduce the incidence of pneumonia?
When an infection-causing agent enters the lungs and causes severe inflammation, possibly leading to the air sacs to be filled with fluid or pus, pneumonia is the usual diagnosis. Pneumonia can range from mild to life-threatening. Symptoms include chest pain while breathing or coughing, confusion, productive or non-productive cough, fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue. If a fever is present, other symptoms can arise from the temperature, such as shaking, chills, and sweating. Pneumonia can be acquired in the community or in a hospital setting. For example, in a hospital setting, those who are on a ventilator, also known as a breathing-machine, should be monitored carefully for any signs of infection, and certain precautions should be taken to prevent the occurrence.
Diagnosis is determined through a thorough physical assessment, blood work, chest x-ray, and sputum analysis. While the chest x-ray cannot determine the agent causing the infection, it can show the fluid-filled pockets, which is useful in determining the extent of pneumonia. The blood work and sputum analysis will positively identify the type of pneumonia so that proper treatment can be initiated. Treatment options include antibiotics or antifungals, depending on what is causing pneumonia. Sometimes, multiple drugs will be utilized to help treat the infection if it is severe. Medications to reduce symptoms include fever and pain relievers, in addition to cough medicine. Hospitalization may be required if the infection has become systemic, meaning it has spread beyond the lungs, or if the infection is causing confusion, difficulty breathing, or impairing other vital functions. Also, those who are younger than the age of 2 or older than the age of 65 will be more likely to be hospitalized.
If your doctor has approved you to be at home while treating pneumonia, it is vital to get plenty of rest, take medication as prescribed, drink plenty of fluids, and stay away from others to prevent spreading the infection. If symptoms worsen, call your physician to determine if you should proceed to urgent care or emergency room for further treatment. To protect yourself and others from the flu, consider getting the flu vaccine, as the flu can lead to pneumonia. Also, discuss with your physician if you are eligible to receive the pneumonia vaccine. To speak with a physician today to discuss vaccinations as preventative measures against pneumonia, connect with Shifa4U.