PNEUMONIA

lungs.jpg

Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus, causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.

 

Bacterial pneumonia, which is the most common form, tends to be more severe than other pneumonia types, with symptoms requiring medical care. The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia can develop gradually or suddenly. Fever may rise as high as a dangerous 105 degrees F, with profuse sweating and rapidly increased breathing and pulse rate. Lips and nail beds may have a bluish color due to a lack of oxygen in the blood. A patient's mental state may be confused or delirious.

 

The symptoms of viral pneumonia usually develop over several days. Early signs are similar to influenza symptoms: fever, a dry cough, headache, muscle pain, and weakness. The symptoms typically worsen within a day or two, with increasing cough, shortness of breath, and muscle pain. There may be a high fever, and there may be blueness of the lips.

In the early 1900s, pneumonia was a leading cause of death in the United States. Sir Almroth Wright conducted the first trial of a whole-cell pneumococcal vaccine in South Africa from 1911 to 1912. Wright started a chain of events that delivered pneumococcal vaccines of increasing clinical and public-health value. By 1940, 80 serotypes (different strains of a microorganism) were identified, and today, 90 serotypes are known.

 

The vaccine was not tested again because penicillin became available for treating pneumococcal pneumonia. But even with antibiotics, the pneumococcal infection continued to be a significant cause of death, with more than 50,000 deaths each year in the United States in the early 1970s. Robert Austrian brought to public attention the need to prevent this infection. Using material from the 14 most common virulent strains of pneumococcus, he developed a new vaccine licensed in 1977. In 1983, the vaccine expanded to protect against 23 strains. 

The symptoms of pneumonia can range from mild to severe and include:

 

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Cough, usually with phlegm

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain when breathing or coughing

  • Nausea/vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Confusion or changes in mental awareness (in those 65 and older)

  • Fatigue

 

The symptoms can vary for different groups. Newborns and infants may not show any signs of infection, while others may vomit and have a fever, cough, have no energy, or be restless.

People in these high-risk groups should see a doctor:

 

  • Adults older than age 65

  • Children younger than age 2 with signs and symptoms

  • People with an underlying health condition or weakened immune system

  • People receiving chemotherapy or taking medication that suppresses the immune system

There are two vaccines for pneumonia that protect against different types of infection.

 

  • PCV13 helps protect people from 13 of the most severe types of bacteria that cause pneumonia.

  • PPSV23 protects against an additional 23 types of pneumonia bacteria. Neither can prevent every type of pneumonia, but they work against more than 30 common, severe types.

 

You cannot get pneumonia from the vaccine. The shots only contain an extract of the pneumonia bacteria, not the actual bacteria that cause the illness.

 

If your symptoms are very severe or you have other health problems, you may need to be hospitalized. Hospital treatment may include:

 

  • Intravenous antibiotics injected into a vein.

  • Respiratory therapy, which involves delivering specific medications directly into the lungs or teaching you to perform breathing exercises to maximize your oxygenation.

  • Oxygen therapy to maintain oxygen levels in your bloodstream (received through a nasal tube, face mask, or ventilator, depending on severity).

 

 

People in these high-risk groups should see a doctor:

 

  • Adults older than age 65.

  • Children younger than age 2 with signs and symptoms.

  • People with an underlying health condition or weakened immune system.

  • People receiving chemotherapy or taking medication that suppresses the immune system.

 

Pneumonia can quickly become a life-threatening condition for some older adults and people with heart failure or chronic lung problems.