Pneumonia is an infection that affects the lungs and causes inflammation; it is caused by bacteria, fungi or viruses. Pneumonia affects one or both lungs and causes the air sacs called alveoli to be filled with pus or fluid, leading to chest pain, coughing or breathing difficulties.
Regardless of the cause of pneumonia, it can spread from one person to another through airborne droplets from sneezing or coughing, as it is highly contagious. Anyone can develop pneumonia, but it is more common in children and older adults.
Many bacteria strains can cause pneumonia, but the most commonly known is Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumonia). It can also be caused by viral infection from influenza A & B and respiratory syncytial virus.
Sometimes, due to a breakdown in the body’s natural defence, germs can also enter the lungs, multiply and cause infection.
Fungal pneumonia is less common, but it is also a notable cause of the infection; this results from valley fever caused by Coccidioides fungus. Another cause of pneumonia is inhaling food, fluid or stomach contents into the lungs. This type of pneumonia is called aspiration pneumonia, and it is not contagious.
Lastly, pneumonia can be caused by using aspiration or breathing machines in a hospital when treating other conditions. This type is referred to as hospital-acquired pneumonia.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
The early signs of pneumonia usually seem like a cold or flu, but other symptoms will follow depending on the type; some of the symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath and fast breathing.
- Cough with yellow, green, or even bloody phlegm.
- Fast heartbeat.
- Chest pain that usually worsens when taking a deep breath.
- Loss of appetite.
- Sweating, fever, and chills.
- Confusion or delirium.
- Nausea and vomiting.
Pneumonia caused by bacteria is treated with antibiotics, and fungal pneumonia requires antifungal medications. But for viral pneumonia, medications are unnecessary; your immune system has a way of fighting such infections. However, your healthcare provider may prescribe some antiviral medications if it gets worse or is caused by influenza.
Your doctor may also recommend OTC medications to relieve pneumonia symptoms, such as cough, aches, pains, and fever.
In addition, you must get adequate rest and drink plenty of fluids when treating pneumonia because hydration will make coughing up phlegm or mucus easier.