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How to Understand the Causes & Symptoms of Pneumonia

Atefa Noorain
Atefa Noorain
July01/ 2016

Pneumonia is a common lung infection seen in people of all age groups. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, fungi and viruses. Pneumonia mainly affects the air sac of the patient. Air sac is a compartment containing air present in the lungs. Pneumonia causes inflammation of air sac in one or both lungs. Inflammation is a condition in which the lungs become swollen and painful. Pneumonia results in breathing problems due to filling of liquid or pus in the air sacs. The disease is curable in the initial stages but it can be life threatening if left untreated.


Causes of Pneumonia


Pneumonia is classified into 3 categories based on the organism causing infection.

  1. Bacterial pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia causes infection at any age group. It is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae.

  1. Fungal pneumonia

Fungal infection is caused by inhaling fungal spores. The causative agent can be found in soil and in blood droppings. The source of infection differs based on the geographical location and the weather conditions in the area. Fungal pneumonia is seen mostly in patients with weak immune system is the mortality rate is very high up to 90% in patients with low immunity.

  1. Viral pneumonia

Viral Pneumonia is caused by the respiratory virus. Viral pneumonia affects infants and the aged people. This pneumonia does not last long and can be cured. In few cases the situation is worsened by the combined attack of flu virus and the viral pneumonia and it can be life threatening. Pregnant women and people with heart and lung disorders are more prone to viral pneumonia infection.

  1. Hospital acquired pneumonia

Hospital acquired pneumonia is caused by bacterial Hospital acquired pneumonia occurs during the stay in hospital either to the patients or the attendants. The patients who are on ventilators and in intensive care units are at high risk of hospital acquired pneumonia. It is difficult to treat hospital acquired pneumonia as they are more resistant to the antibiotic. A new modified drug is required for the treatment of pneumonia caused by resistant organisms

  1. Health acquired pneumonia

Health acquired pneumonia is commonly seen in the health care workers who are constantly in contact with the patients. Health acquired pneumonia is also caused by bacteria and these bacteria are known to be resistant to antibiotics.


Symptoms of Pneumonia


The symptoms of pneumonia are similar to the common cold in the initial stages. The infection can be confirmed only after diagnosis .The severity of pneumonia infection depends on the causative organism and the health condition of the person. The most common symptoms of pneumonia are

  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry cough
  • Wheezing
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhoea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite


Risk factors


Children below 2 years and people above 65 years of age are at high risk of acquiring pneumonia.

The common risk factor which increase the chances of getting pneumonia infection are

  • Viral respiratory infection
  • Smoking
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Bronchitis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Diabetes
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Heart disease
  • Auto immune disorder
  • Recent surgery


Treatment of Pneumonia


Treatment of pneumonia is primarily based on the causative agent and the severity of the infection.

  • Bacterial pneumonia can be treated with the antibiotics prescribed by the doctor after the confirmation of the severity of infection. The patient needs to complete the course of drugs to avoid relapse of infection. The treatment results are visible in first week of medication intake. The prescription needs to be changed if positive results are not observed in the patient.
  • Viral pneumonia can be cure with antiviral drugs. The treatment results are not visible in the initial stages. The positive results can be seen only after one to three weeks of medication.
  • The fungal pneumonia cases are rarely seen and when found they are treated either by antifungal drug or by a combination drug therapy.




Complications are seen in patients those who are at high risk even after the treatment. The Major complication can be organism entering into the blood stream. Pneumonia causative mostly affect the respiratory system of the person. In few cases it is observed that the infection spreads to the other organs through blood and results in multiple organ failure. Multiple organ failure directly leads to the death of the person. The patient suffering with pneumonia requires breathing assistance when they are attacked by another lug disorder apart from pneumonia. In such cases the patients face breathing problem and sever coughing. The severe cases of pneumonia shows the accumulation of pus or fluid in the layers of lungs which needs to be treated either by surgery or by draining through the chest tube.


Preventive Measures


Pneumonia can be prevented by making few changes in the lifestyle.

  • Healthy diet

Healthy diet is must for pneumonia patients to build immunity. Healthy diet can boost up the treatment resulting in the complete cure.

  • Vaccination

Vaccines are available in the market for treatment of flu like symptoms. It is recommended to take flu shots every year to avoid infections. Doctor’s opinion should be taken before taking any vaccine. The complete course of medication needs to complete prescribed by the doctor to avoid relapse of the infection.

  • Drinking plenty of water

Keeping yourself hydrated helps loosening the mucus in the lungs and surgery can be avoided in such cases.

  • Maintaining proper hygiene

Hygiene is the primary preventive measure that can be adapted by all age groups. Sanitizers can be used when coming in contact with any unknown person to avoid the risk of infection.

  • Avoid smoking

Smoking leads to severe lung disorders like lung cancer. Smoking can make pneumonia a life threatening disorder by reducing the immunity and worsening the condition of lungs.

  • Exercise

Exercise and meditation can help the person relax and enhance the strength of the person to fight with pneumonia. Yoga is more beneficial in respiratory disorders. During yoga the lungs play a major role in the gaseous exchange which in turns clear the passage and reduces the chances of severity.

Atefa Noorain
Atefa Noorain

Atefa Noorain, (Microbiologist) former Head of the Department of Life Sciences, Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Sujatha Degree College for Women. She worked as an Associate Research Analyst at Thomson Reuters and an Associate Editor of two research journals. She has presented her research work in 3 International Conferences. She has written articles for national journals and international journals. She had been felicitated as a Young Speaker in the last conference. She has worked on Nanoparticles as a part of her research project and won the Best Scientist of the Day award.

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