Pneumonia, Walking Pneumonia and Pneumonitis - Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
World Pneumonia Day
The goal of World Pneumonia Day is to increase awareness that pneumonia can be a killer, especially in underdeveloped, impoverished countries.
Pneumonia is the number one killer of children under the age of five - beating out AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.
This year, World Pneumonia Day falls on November 12.
For more information on World Pneumonia Day click here.
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is inflammation in the lungs that is caused by infection from bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most pneumonia occurs when there is a breakdown in your body's natural defenses, allowing germs to invade and multiply inside your lungs. Along with bacteria, there are white blood cells that fill the air spaces in the lungs. These white blood cells are trying to destroy the organisms that are attacking the lungs. The air spaces become inflamed and filled with fluid, causing labored breathing.
What are the symptoms of pneumonia?
- Can be similar to an upper respiratory infection including coughing, sneezing, sore throat
- Shaking chills
- A cough that produces yellowish-greenish sputum, sometimes blood-tinged
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired and weak
- Cyanosis (bluish tint to the skin due to poorly oxygenated blood)
- Chest pain
- Low blood pressure
- High heart rate
- Low oxygen saturation
- Loss of appetite
- Sometimes the only symptoms are a worsening cough, muscle aches and headaches that develop slowly over time
What are the treatments for pneumonia?
- Home care
- Over the counter cough medicine does not help with a cough caused by pneumonia
Usually only those who have trouble breathing, the elderly or those with other medical issues need to be hospitalized if diagnosed with pneumonia.
What is walking pneumonia?
Walking pneumonia is also known as atypical pneumonia and is caused by an infection from mycoplasma pneumoniae - a microscopic organism related to bacteria.
About two million people are diagnosed with walking pneumonia each year. It is called walking pneumonia because the symptoms can be so mild that it does not call for bed rest. People can still go to work and do normal activities.
What are the symptoms of walking pneumonia?
- Decline in energy level - you may feel tiredness for about 1-3 weeks before any other symptoms appear
- Sore throat
- Mild fever
- Chest pain
- Increased respiratory rate
- Dry cough
The symptoms are similar to the flu or a bad cold.
What are the treatments for walking pneumonia?
- Sometimes the body cures itself of walking pneumonia but you can also see a doctor who may prescribe antibiotics to shorten the span of the sickness.
Both pneumonia and walking pneumonia can be contagious.
What is pneumonitis?
Pneumonitis refers to the non-infectious inflammation of lung tissue. Pneumonia is a type of pneumonitis but when there are other causes of inflammation besides the typical virus or bacteria, it is called pneumonitis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, pneumonitis can be caused by:
- Occupational exposure to airborne particles, such as asbestos or silica
- Some drugs, particularly chemotherapy drugs
- Radiation therapy to the chest
- Exposure to poultry, pigeons or pet birds
- Many types of mold
- Inhalation of dust or chemicals
What are the symptoms of pneumonitis?
- Difficulty breathing
- Low-grade fever
- Body aches
If pneumonitis is left untreated, it could result in chronic pneumonitis. Symptoms would then include:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Unintentional weight loss
What are the treatments for pneumonitis?
- Avoid allergens or chemicals to which your lungs may be sensitive
- Corticosteroids or steroids such as prednisone that help reduce inflammation
- Oxygen therapy
The type of treatment can depend on the cause of the pneumonitis.
- Vaccine Information Statement | Pneumococcal Polysaccharide | VIS | CDC
Detailed information from the CDC on the PPSV vaccine
Pneumonia Vaccine for Children
It has been recommended that children should receive the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV). The former vaccine, PCV7 had recently been replaced by PCV13. To find the PCV13 vaccination schedule for children, click here.
Pneumococcal vaccination can prevent a specific type of pneumonia that is caused by Pneumococcus bacterium. Twenty-three out of the 80 types of pneumococcal bacteria are contained with this vaccine. These 23 serotypes cause the the vast majority of lung infections.
There are currently 2 types of pneumococcal vaccines: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV).
Who should get the PPSV vaccine?
- Adults over the age of 65
- People over the age of 2 who have long-term health problems
- People over the age of 2 who have a disease that lowers resistance to infection
- People over the age of 2 who are taking drugs or treatments that lower resistance to infection
- Adults between the ages of 19 and 64 who smoke or have asthma
- Residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities
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