Pneumonia is an acute infection in one or both lungs. Pneumonia is a common infection that has claimed countless lives over the years. In fact, it is the leading cause of death in children across the globe. Research has shown that nearly 15% of the deaths of children under the age of five were attributed to pneumonia.
Every year, many parents are rushing their children to our emergency room in Houston to seek treatment. Pneumonia can be fatal, especially for patients who are in the high-risk category.
However, pneumonia can be prevented with straightforward interventions and treated with low-tech and low-cost medication available in the ER near you.
Pneumonia, In a Nutshell
Your lungs are made up of small air sacs that are known as the alveoli. The alveoli are normally filled with air when you breathe. But if you have pneumonia, the alveoli become filled with fluid and pus, making breathing painful, and your oxygen intake levels dwindle.
Pneumonia can range from mild to life-threatening. It is even more severe for infants, young children, patients older than 65 years, and if you have a weakened immune system.
What Are the Causes?
Several microbes can cause pneumonia. But the most prevalent are viruses and bacteria that reside in the air that we breathe. Typically, your immune system fights off these germs and prevents you from having an infection.
However, there are times when the microbes can overpower your immune system even if you are healthy.
Pneumonia is categorized based on the type of microorganism that causes it and where you got the infection.
This is the most prevalent type of pneumonia. The infection typically occurs outside of health care facilities or hospitals. Community-acquired pneumonia can be caused by:
- Fungi. This type of pneumonia is common in patients who have weakened immune systems or have chronic health issues, or you have inhaled copious amounts of the organism. This type of fungi is present in soil or bird droppings.
- Bacteria. The most common bacteria that causes pneumonia in America is Streptococcus pneumonia. This type of pneumonia can occur after you have had the flu or a cold, or it can happen on its own. There are times when only one lung is affected, a condition that is known as lobar pneumonia.
- Viruses. Some of the viruses that cause colds and the flu can cause pneumonia. Even SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, can cause pneumonia. This type of pneumonia is most common in children under the age of five. Typically, viral pneumonia is mild, but it can be very severe if SARS-CoV-2 causes it.
There are instances where patients have gone to the hospital to receive treatment for another illness, and during their hospital stay, they get infected. Hospital-acquired pneumonia can be severe since these bacteria are more resistant to antibiotics. At the same time, your immune system is still compromised because you are recovering from another illness.
This type of pneumonia is caused when you inhale saliva, food, drinks, or vomit into your lungs. Aspiration pneumonia is more likely to happen when something disturbs your gag reflex.
Health Care-Acquired Pneumonia
People who are in long-term health facilities are the ones who are the ones who get this type of pneumonia. Just like hospital-acquired pneumonia, the bacteria are more resistant to antibiotics.
The symptoms experienced will vary in severity depending on the type of germ, your age, and where you got the infection. Mild signs are similar to those of the flu or cold, only that they may last longer.
However, here are some of the common symptoms:
- Cough that produces phlegm
- Chest pain when you cough or breathe
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Lower than normal body temperature
With infants, you might not notice the above symptoms. But they may vomit, have a cough, a fever, and may appear restless. They might also have difficulty breathing.
The treatment will depend on the type and severity of the infection. However, here are some of the treatment options available:
- Prescription medication. Our doctor at our emergency clinic may prescribe medication depending on the type of germ that has caused the infection.
- At home care. Our doctor may also suggest that you stay at home and use some of the drugs you can buy at your local drug store to alleviate pain and manage the fever and cough.
- Hospitalization. This option is viable when you have other health issues, or the infection is severe.
When to See a Doctor
If you have difficulty breathing, persistent fever, chest pain, or persistent cough, it is a good time for you to rush to our emergency room in Houston. Pneumonia can be fatal, especially if you have chronic lung problems or heart failure. Do not hesitate to call our doctor at Memorial Heights ER if you have any questions.