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What is Pneumonia and How To Manage It

Last updated on : 20 Jun, 2024

Read time : 8 min

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia disease is inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs due to infection. It can infect one area of a lung or several areas. It is typically caused by a virus or bacteria you have been exposed to in the environment. It is also contagious, which means it can pass to you from another person. Viruses like COVID-19 and common cold viruses can also cause severe pneumonia. Learn more about this disease, how you can manage pneumonia and the best medications to treat it.

Types of Pneumonia

There are 4 types of pneumonia depending on the cause:

  • Bacterial pneumonia: This is caused by bacteria, the most common of which is streptococcus pneumoniae. It might just affect one small area of your lung, or it may encompass all of both of your lungs.
  • Viral pneumonia:  It is responsible for about one-third of all pneumonia cases, this type is caused by various viruses, including flu (influenza). People may be more likely to get bacterial pneumonia if they first have viral pneumonia. Viral pneumonia is usually not as serious as bacterial and typically goes away more quickly.
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia: It is also known as walking pneumonia. This type is considered atypical because its symptoms and physical signs may vary. Also, it causes a milder illness. It most often occurs in older children and young adults.
  • Fungal pneumonia:  It occurs from fungi in soil or bird droppings.

Causes of Pneumonia 

Bacteria are the most common cause of pneumonia. It can also develop after you’ve had a cold or the flu. Viruses that infect the respiratory tract may cause pneumonia. Fungi can also cause pneumonia in people with severe health problems or weakened immune systems. The most common pneumonia causes include:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) and Mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria.
  • COVID-19 and Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)Respiratory syncytial virus 
  • Adenovirus infection (a virus that can cause mild to severe infection in kids)
  • Chickenpox 
  • Chlamydia pneumoniae infection 
  • Haemophilus influenza disease (bacterial infection)
  • Measles 
  • Pertussis or whooping cough 
  • Psittacosis (a disease you get from contact with infected birds)
  • Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) (a virus causing upper respiratory infection)

Symptoms of Pneumonia  

People with pneumonia often have a cough, fever or chills, difficulty breathing, low energy and poor appetite. Sometimes nausea, diarrhoea, and/or chest pain may also be experienced. The symptoms of pneumonia may start within a few days and worsen slowly over time. The common pneumonia symptoms include:

  • Pneumonia Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough, usually with mucus 
  • Poor appetite
  • Chest pain when you breathe or cough
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Shortness of breath

Treatment for Pneumonia

The treatment of pneumonia depends on its likely cause and severity. The following are the pneumonia treatment options:

  • Antibiotics: Depending on the type of bacterial causing pneumonia, antibiotics may be given. Most people feel better after one to three days of antibiotic treatment. However, you should take antibiotics as your doctor prescribes. If you stop too soon, your pneumonia may reoccur.
  • Antivirals:  These are prescribed for viral pneumonia. However, these medicines do not work against every virus that causes pneumonia.
  • Antifungal: These are prescribed for fungal pneumonia.
  • Over-the-counter medicines: OTC medicines can be taken for pneumonia, fever, muscle pain and easy breathing. Talk to your doctor before taking these medications simultaneously.
  • Oxygen therapy: If you’re unable to breathe, you may be given extra oxygen through a tube in your nose or a mask on your face.
  • IV fluids: In case of dehydration, fluids may be given through veins. 
  • Fluid drainage: If you have a lot of fluid buildup in your lungs and chest wall, it may need to be drained. This can be done with a catheter or surgery.

Risk Factors for Pneumonia

The common risk factors for pneumonia include: 

  • Infants and children younger than 2
  • Adults over age 65
  • People with respiratory and heart problems
  • Smoking and excess alcohol consumption
  • weakened immune system
  • Diabetes
  • Recently having been sick with a cold or the flu.

Tips for Managing Pneumonia

Follow these tips to manage your pneumonia effectively: 

  • Choose heart-healthy foods:  Good nutrition helps your body recover.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to help you stay hydrated. It will also loosen the mucus.
  • Avoid alcohol: Don’t drink alcohol or use illegal drugs. Alcohol and illegal drugs weaken your immune system and can raise the risk of pneumonia complications.
  • Quit smoking: Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. Breathing in smoke can worsen your pneumonia. 
  • Get plenty of sleep: Take rest and get as much help as you can with meal preparation and household chores until you are feeling yourself. It is important not to overdo daily activities until you are fully recovered.
  • Get light physical activity: Moving around can help you regain your strength and improve your recovery. However, you may still feel short of breath. Activity that is too strenuous may make you dizzy. Talk to your provider about how much activity is right for you.
  • Sit upright: It will help you feel more comfortable and easily breathe.
  • Breathing practice: Take a couple of deep breaths several times a day.
  • Warm liquids: Drink warm beverages, take steamy baths and use a humidifier to help open your airways and ease your breathing. Contact your doctor right away if your breathing gets worse instead of better over time.
  • Healthy foods:  Eat dark leafy greens, pumpkin, fatty fish, peppers, tomatoes, olive oil, and berries. These can help reduce inflammation and boost immunity.

Medications Used to Treat Pneumonia

The best medications used to treat pneumonia are listed below: 

  • Antibiotics: Azithromycin, clarithromycin, erythromycin, levofloxacin or moxifloxacin, amoxicillin or amoxicillin/clavulanate (Augmentin), ceftriaxone or cefotaxime and Vancomycin. 
  • OTC antipyretics and painkillers: Acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Bronchodilators to manage wheezing.
  • Cough suppressants: Dextromethorphan, to help relieve coughing.
  • Mucolytics: Acetylcysteine to help loosen mucus and make it easier to cough up.
  • Corticosteroids: Prednisone and methylprednisolone used to reduce inflammation in the lungs.
  • Supplements: Vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and probiotics

These medicines only when prescribed to prevent the risk of potential interactions. 

Prevention of Pneumonia

Here are some preventive measures to reduce the risk of pneumonia:

  • Pneumonia vaccines: They can help prevent pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria or the flu virus. 
  • Basic precautions: Wear masks, maintain physical distance and avoid large crowds, which can reduce your risk of pneumonia.
  • Hygiene: Wash hands at all times, especially when meeting someone infected with a cold or lung infection. Lead a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and exercise.
  • Stay away from smoke: This includes smoking and secondhand smoke. Talk to your doctor if you use tobacco products and are having trouble staying smoke-free while you recover. This would be a good time to think about quitting for good.

Conclusion 

Pneumonia is a short-term infectious disease, but sometimes it can last longer or get worse. Most of the time, full recovery after pneumonia has been observed. Usually, no permanent damage to the lungs occurs until you have other respiratory problems or immune problems. If you’ve been diagnosed with pneumonia, you should take it seriously and take care of yourself. Most it can be beaten with antibiotics and rest. However, in severe conditions, you may need to be hospitalised or given intensive care unit (ICU) and life support measures.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the first warning signs of pneumonia?

The first warning signs of pneumonia include persistent cough, fever, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue.

How serious is getting pneumonia?

If you have pneumonia, you should take it seriously and care for yourself. Antibiotics and rest can help cure pneumonia. However, in severe conditions, you may be given oxygen in the hospital setting.

What is the best treatment for pneumonia?

Pneumonia disease can be treated with antibiotics, cough medications, painkillers and immunity booster supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and probiotics.

What is the main cause of pneumonia?

Bacterial infection is the most common cause of pneumonia. It can also develop after you’ve had a cold or the flu.

What are the 4 stages of pneumonia?

Congestion, red hepatisation, grey hepatisation, and resolution are the four stages of pneumonia disease.

Do lungs recover fully after pneumonia?

Most of the time, full recovery of lungs after pneumonia has been observed. Usually, no permanent damage occurs until you have other respiratory problems such as asthma, COPD or immune problems.

What food should be avoided in pneumonia?

Processed foods, fried foods, excess salt, sugar and alcohol should be avoided in pneumonia.

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Our healthcare experts have carefully reviewed and compiled the information presented here to ensure accuracy and trustworthiness. It is important to note that this information serves as a general overview of the topic and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, or cure any health problem. This page does not establish a doctor-patient relationship, nor does it replace the advice or consultation of a registered medical practitioner. We recommend seeking guidance from your registered medical practitioner for any questions or concerns regarding your medical condition.

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