Health

Pneumonia symptoms and treatment : studies

Pneumonia is an infection of the tiny air sacs in the lungs. What are the symptoms of pneumonia? Is it contagious? What is the treatment? Could there be complications? What is latent pneumonia? The expert answers

Pneumonia is an infection of the lung tissue, that is, of the tiny air sacs found in the lungs.

Among the common symptoms: chills, fever, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, accelerated heart rate.

Pneumonia is treated with antibiotics taken orally or injected into a vein.

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lung tissue, that is, of the tiny air sacs found in the lungs.

In these alveoli the oxygen is absorbed from the air as part of the breathing process, and in them the oxygen is transferred to the bloodstream. Infection in these air sacs impairs the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the various organs.

Pneumonia is caused by bacteria or viruses (viruses). Rarely – especially in patients who suffer from deficiencies in the immune system – fungi can also cause pneumonia. Also rarely, a viral disease such as the flu can later cause bacterial pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

Pneumonia : symptoms and treatment

These are usually the symptoms of pneumonia:

  • Fever .
  • Chills.
  • Cough (with or without purulent sputum).
  • Shortness of breath .
  • Chest pains .
  • Accelerated heart rate.
  • Increased breathing rate.

There may also be vomiting, diarrhea and blurred consciousness.

In the severe cases, all the symptoms will appear at the same time, while in the milder cases, only a cough and fever will appear.

Is it possible to have pneumonia without fever?

Pneumonia without fever is rare, but is possible in the elderly and in small babies whose immune systems are weakened. However, even in these populations, fever often accompanies pneumonia. 

When should you seek medical help?

When there are symptoms that may indicate pneumonia: prolonged fever and cough, which may be accompanied by chills, shortness of breath, accelerated breathing rate and pulse, vomiting, lethargy.

Is pneumonia contagious? Should the patient be isolated?

The degree of infection depends on the cause of the disease. For example, pneumonia caused by the flu virus or the corona virus is more contagious than pneumonia caused by the pneumococcus bacteria.

For the most part, there is no need to isolate a patient with pneumonia (with the exception of those who are sick with corona, who in any case must be isolated – whether they have pneumonia or not). 

However, you should always observe basic hygiene rules: a ventilated room, washing your hands, especially after sneezing or coughing, and making sure not to sneeze into your palm. 

If there are members of the household suffering from immunosuppression, it is recommended that they not come into contact with the patient.

How long is pneumonia contagious?

As mentioned, usually “normal” pneumonia does not pass from person to person. If it is pneumonia due to a viral disease, such as the flu, the duration of the infection is the same as the duration of the viral disease causing the pneumonia: a few days.

How is pneumonia diagnosed?  

The doctor’s diagnosis is based on questioning about the symptoms described above, on physical examination findings and listening to the lungs. In most cases, a chest x-ray is also necessary to confirm or rule out the diagnosis.

Sometimes blood tests are also done (blood count  or CRP test which can indicate an inflammatory condition), and this is according to the professional judgment of the doctor. It must be remembered that it is not always possible to diagnose a disease in its initial stages.

Is it allowed to take a chest x-ray during pregnancy? 

It is recommended to avoid unnecessary X-rays as much as possible during pregnancy. In cases where x-rays must be taken for the sake of women’s health, the abdominal area must be covered with a lead apron that reduces the exposure of the fetus to radiation.

In any case, it should be remembered that the amount of radiation in a chest x-ray is small and similar to the amount of radiation absorbed in a transatlantic flight (depending on flight data such as altitude, latitude, type of aircraft), so if there is a medical need to take a chest x-ray for a pregnant woman – it can be done, subject to medical judgment.

How do you differentiate between bacterial pneumonia and viral pneumonia?

In practice, it is difficult to differentiate between bacterial pneumonia and viral pneumonia based on the questioning and the physical examination. Even after looking at the chest photos it is hard to tell them apart.

In hospitalized patients, it is sometimes possible to differentiate with the help of various invasive tests. Blood tests can be done in the community, and these may hint at one diagnosis or another, but not with complete certainty.

What is latent pneumonia?

Occult pneumonia is not a medical term. Sometimes this term is used colloquially to describe a situation where there is pneumonia, but it is not detected in a clinical examination, and only a chest x-ray reveals it.

What is the treatment for pneumonia? 

Since it is very difficult to differentiate between bacterial pneumonia and viral pneumonia, the treatment of the disease is usually with antibiotics taken orally or injected into a vein – depending on the general condition of the patient.

The general condition also dictates whether the treatment is given in the community (at home or in a day hospital) or in a hospital. The type of antibiotic for pneumonia is chosen by the doctor according to the patient’s background data and according to his condition.

The duration of the recommended treatment for pneumonia has been shortened in recent years as part of the global trend to reduce the use of antibiotics as much as possible to avoid side effects and the creation of resistant bacteria.

Today, a treatment of only 5 days is recommended for pneumonia – if the course of the disease is normal and it is not accompanied by complications.

In addition to the drug treatment, it is necessary to pay attention to drinking, rest, a ventilated room and lowering the temperature.

Is it worth giving antibiotics during a viral illness (such as the flu) to prevent deterioration into pneumonia?

Really, really not. Viral diseases pass by themselves. There is no proof that antibiotic treatment affects the course of the viral disease or prevents complications. On the contrary, the treatment may cause unnecessary side effects and the development of resistant bacteria .

Are there possible complications for pneumonia?

In the vast majority of cases, a full recovery from pneumonia is achieved without any complications and without any future damage.

The most worrying possible complication of pneumonia is respiratory failure and the need for artificial respiration. Sometimes the cavity of the lung membranes is filled with pus, and then it is necessary to drain it. Even in such cases, a full recovery is usually achieved, and no long-term damage remains.

Since the discovery of antibiotics, the rates of complications have greatly decreased, as well as mortality from pneumonia, but there are still patients for whom the course of the disease may be particularly difficult: the elderly, infants, people who suffer from a deficiency in the immune system, patients with lung diseases and patients with various chronic diseases.

How long does it take to recover from pneumonia?

The recovery time depends on the severity of the pneumonia. You can recover from a mild pneumonia that did not require hospitalization after only about 5 days. On the other hand, recovery from a serious illness that involved hospitalization and even ventilation can only be achieved after a few weeks.

Is there a way to prevent pneumonia?

Yes! And things are not complicated: do not smoke  and get vaccinated according to the recommended vaccination routine according to age and underlying diseases. Not complicated, right?

It is recommended for the entire population to receive  a flu vaccine  once a year starting at the age of six months. The vaccine is especially important for babies and toddlers who have not yet turned two years old, for adults over 50, for patients with chronic diseases, for the household members of those who belong to these risk groups, and for health workers.

In addition to this, there are also dedicated vaccines to prevent infections with the pneumococcal bacteria – the main bacteria among the bacteria that cause pneumonia in the community. The vaccines are Fenimox and Pravner . 

Prebner is part of the vaccination routine in childhood and is intended for certain situations in adulthood as well. The fenimovax vaccine is intended for adults 65 years of age and older and for patients with chronic diseases of any age. The schedule for administering these vaccines and the number of vaccines to be received varies according to age and underlying diseases.

If I have had pneumonia in the past, am I vaccinated?

Unfortunately, no.

What is the difference between pneumonia and acute bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis (not to be confused with chronic bronchitis , which is a chronic lung disease, usually of smokers), is an infection of the bronchi – the tubes that carry air from the trachea to the air sacs in the lungs. This disease is caused by viruses, so there is no need for antibiotic treatment. The treatment is only supportive and is intended to alleviate the symptoms. 

The main manifestation of bronchitis is a cough, sometimes persistent, with or without purulent sputum, and possibly fever (as in any viral disease). Unlike pneumonia, acute bronchitis does not cause chills, shortness of breath, increased breathing rate, or accelerated heart rate.

Statistically, acute bronchitis is much more common than pneumonia.

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