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Pneumonia: A lung infection that inflames air sacs

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Dr Vishwanath Bellad, Pulmonologist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital explains about pneumonia and its cure and treatment

Pneumonia, unless specified, refers to infection of the lungs caused by bacteria. According to WHO survey, Pneumonia accounts for 15% of all deaths of children lesser then 5 years, killing approximately 800,000 children a year. It can be caused by virus, bacteria or even the fungi.  The pneumonia is prevalent in all parts of the world. At least one child dies from pneumonia in every 39 seconds. This disease is fully preventable and can be treated easily with appropriate antibiotics. The germs causing pneumonia, make the air sacs in the lungs fill with fluid which makes it hard to breathe, causes cough, chest pain and fever in an affected individual.

Pneumonia, in most individuals may be mild, but can be fatal also depending upon the severity and associated medical conditions. It usually spreads by the tiny droplets containing causative agents, propelled in the air by the act of cough or sneeze. The infection can be life-threatening for anyone, but more so in infants and people over age of 65 years. Pneumonia fully recovers with proper medical care.

Pneumonia caused by bacteria and fungi are treated by appreciate antibiotics. The most pneumoniae caused by the viruses are usually self limiting and no specific anti viral drugs are available. Most form of pneumonia can be prevented by vaccines. Pneumonia generally occurs during the cold weather because exposure to extreme cold impairs ciliary motion of the respiratory tract. This destroys the physical barrier of defence mechanism.  Children who below the age of 2 are at highest risk for getting both viral and bacterial through inhalation of airborne droplets from a sneeze or cough. People with pre-existing heart and lung problems, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, renal failure, smokers, and those having impaired immune system are highly susceptible for pneumonia. The people with weak immune systems and older adults might present with atypical symptoms which may massaccarade the diagnosis.

One of the main reasons of the child deaths caused by pneumonia which are strongly associated with lack of nutrition, poor sanitation, indoor air pollution and inadequate access to health care. All these factors are highly compounded by poverty makes pneumonia a disease of inequality.

How can it be curbed and prevented?

The health facilitator diagnoses pneumonia based on detailed history and thorough clinical examination. This is supported by X ray Chest, sputum tests and blood tests. It is important to take the full course of antibiotic which is prescribed by the medical consultant. Stopping the medicine soon may cause the infection to come back in even worst way. It may also lead to emergence of drug resistance.

Measures to curb and prevent the pneumonia like:

  • Be up to date about vaccination of the children starting at 2 months, should begin a series of vaccines that prevents the bacterial type of pneumonia.
  • All children 6 months of age up to 5 years of age should get a flu vaccine yearly.
  • Explain the affected individuals the hygiene methods such as to cover their noses and mouths with facial tissue or a sleeve of their shirt when sneezing or throw away tissues after use.
  • Teach and practice good hand washing procedures
  • Keep the surfaces clean that are touched often for example toys, door nobs wipe them down with a disinfectant.
  • Keep the home smoke free.

Expert opinion

The expert opinion that can help to recover and reduce the risk of complications:

  • Take proper rest. Don’t go back to work until the body temperature returns to normal or stop coughing up mucus. Even when it starts feeling better.
  • Always stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids especially water to help loosen mucus in your lungs.
  • Take timely medicine which as prescribed. Should take the entire course of medications which doctor prescribed never stop taking medication because it may continue to harbor bacteria that can multiply and cause your pneumonia to recur.
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