Pneumonia is a common lung infection caused by organisms including bacteria, viruses or fungi. It causes the lungs’ air sacs (alveoli) to inflame and fill with fluid or pus. Often, it is spread via coughing, sneezing, touching or even breathing.
The symptoms of pneumonia can range from mild to severe; depending on factors such as the type of organism causing the infection, age group and overall health.
Anyone can get pneumonia, but many factors can increase your chances of getting it.
Pneumonia can be classified according to the types of germs and where one get the infection:
1. Community acquired pneumonia
This is the most common type of pneumonia. It may be caused by:
- Bacteria. Streptococcus pneumoniae is a type of pneumonia that can occur on its own or after a cold/flu. It may affect one part (lobe) of the lung causing lobar pneumonia
- Bacteria-like organisms. Mycoplasma pneumoniae can also cause pneumonia with milder symptoms. It is also known as walking pneumonia, which isn't severe enough to require bed rest.
- Viruses. Some viruses causing colds and flu can also cause pneumonia. They are the most common type of pneumonia in children under the age of 5.
- Fungi. Fungal pneumonia is common among people with chronic illnesses, weakened immune systems and those who inhaled large doses of the organisms.
2. Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP)
Prolonged stay in the hospital, such as those on ventilators can get hospital-acquired pneumonia. HAP can be difficult to treat as the bacteria causing it may be more resistant to antibiotics.
3. Healthcare acquired pneumonia
This bacterial type of pneumonia is an infection occuring in people who live in long-term care facilities or those who receive care in outpatients clinics (e.g. dialysis centres). Like HAP, healthcare acquired pneumonia can be caused by bacteria that are more resistant to antibiotics
4. Aspiration pneumonia
This usually occur when one inhale food, drink, saliva or vomit into the lungs. Conditions associated with altered or reduced consciousness, disturbed gag reflex, or ability to maintain the airway increase the risk of aspiration pneumonia. Examples include alcoholism, seizure, stroke, dementia, Parkinson's disease, general anaesthesia or head trauma.
Treatment for pneumonia involves curing the infection and preventing complications. Specific treatment depends on the type and severity of pneumonia, age and overall health.
1. Get vaccinated. Influenza vaccine can be taken annually. Pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for those in higher risk groups (children, elderly, immunocompromised individuals)
2. Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly, especially after you go to the bathroom, as well as before and after you eat
3. Stay away from smoke. This includes smoking and secondhand smoke.
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