What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the alveoli of one or both lungs. Alveoli are tiny air sacs in the lungs that allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to move between the lungs and the bloodstream. When someone has pneumonia, their alveoli fill with fluid, which makes it harder to breathe(Healthline 2017). Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Pneumonia can range from mild to life threatening.
History of Pneumonia:
Pneumonia has been a common disease noted throughout history. The symptoms of pneumonia were first noted by the Greek physician Hippocrates around 460 BC. However, it was not until the 1800s that pneumonia was identified as its own infection, and not just a symptom of other diseases. The bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, one of the most common causes of pneumonia worldwide, was discovered in 1881, isolated from the saliva of a patient with rabies by French microbiologist Louis Pasteur.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, pneumonia was the third leading cause of death overall(Chow 2015). Because of this, finding a treatment to the disease became a public health initiative. Throughout the 1900s, use of antibiotics was a common treatment strategy against pneumonia. However, the widespread overuse of antibiotics made it so that many pneumonia causing pathogens are now resistant to them. Now, people take vaccines to fight against pneumonia(Chow 2015).
Causes and Prevention of Pneumonia:
Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi among other microorganisms. Pneumonia can be classified according to what microorganism it is caused by. These classifications include:
-Bacterial Pneumonia(Pneumonia that is caused by bacteria like Streptococcus pneumonia.)
-Viral Pneumonia(Pneumonia that is caused by respiratory viruses.)
-Fungal Pneumonia(Pneumonia caused by fungi in the environment.)
Both viral and bacterial pneumonia pneumonia can be spread to others through the inhalation of airborne droplets from a cough or sneeze while fungal pneumonia can only be acquired from the environment.
Pneumonia can also be classified according to where it is acquired. These classifications are:
-Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia(Bacterial pneumonia acquired during a hospital stay.)
-Community-Acquired Pneumonia(Pneumonia acquired outside of medical institutes.)
The most common way to prevent pneumonia is taking a pneumonia vaccine. While pneumonia vaccines cannot prevent all cases of the disease, it can lessen the seriousness of pneumonia and lower complications of it(Healthline 2017). People should also take the flu shot as pneumonia is often a complication of the flu. Additional tips to avoid getting pneumonia are:
-Not smoking. Smoking increases people’s susceptibility to respiratory infections that include pneumonia.
-Maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Exercising and having a healthy diet strengthens the immune system, which fights against infections like pneumonia.
-Being sanitary. Using proper hygiene will decrease the risk of pneumonia among other infections.
Who is Affected by Pneumonia?
While pneumonia affects all ages and people, it is more serious to certain age groups. Children that are under the age of five and adults over the age of 65 tend to have more serious forms of pneumonia(NHLBI 2017). This is because young children and old adults have weaker immune systems than most people. Additionally, people with certain conditions and chronic diseases that weaken the immune system also have deadlier forms of pneumonia. If people have a weak immune system, they cannot fight against microorganisms that enter the body. This includes the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that lead to pneumonia. People that smoke, misuse drugs, or drink excessive alcohol are also at a higher risk of pneumonia(Healthline 2017).
Symptoms of Pneumonia:
The symptoms of pneumonia vary depending on the cause and seriousness of a disease, and the person who has it. Common symptoms include:
-Coughing that may produce phlegm(mucus)
-Fever, sweating, and chills
-Shortness of breath
-Chest pain when breathing or coughing
-Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
-Fast breathing(children 5 and younger)
-Vomiting, lack of energy, and trouble eating or drinking (infants)
-Confusion, changes in mental awareness(adults 65 and older)
-Lower than normal body temperature(adults 65 and older and people with weak immune systems)
The symptoms of pneumonia are similar to those of other pulmonary diseases such as COPD(Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, lung cancer, bronchitis, pulmonary embolism, and pulmonary edema. This is because all these diseases affect the lungs and how they function. The symptoms are similar as all the diseases impair breathing. Pneumonia is different from other similar diseases as it is an infection caused by bacteria and other microorganisms, unlike COPD, asthma, lung cancer, bronchitis, pulmonary embolism, and pulmonary edema. In order to cure pneumonia,
patients can take antibiotic, antiviral, or antifungal drugs depending on what type of pneumonia they have, unlike the other diseases previously mentioned(NHLBI 2017).
How Does Pneumonia Affect the Body?
Pneumonia affects the respiratory system. It is specifically an infection in the lungs that causes inflammation in the alveoli. The alveoli get filled up with fluid or mucus. In serious cases of the disease, pneumonia can lead to respiratory failure (Acute respiratory distress syndrome), as the fluid in the alveoli prevents the organs in the respiratory system from getting the oxygen that they need to function(Healthline 2017). Bacteria from the pneumonia infection can also spread to the bloodstream in a condition known as bacteremia. This leads to pneumonia affecting other parts of the body, which can cause organ failure and death.
Number of Americans Affected by Pneumonia:
It is estimated that about 1 million Americans obtain pneumonia yearly(CDC 2017). Of those 1 million, approximately 50,000 people die from pneumonia each year.
Statistics of Pneumonia in Other Countries:
In England, around 220,000 are diagnosed with pneumonia each year. Pneumonia kills about 29,000 people in England yearly(BTS 2016).
In Japan, it is estimated that there are 1,880,000 cases of pneu- -monia in just adults yearly(NCBI). 69.4 of these cases are from adults 65 or older.
In India, about 200,000 children under 5 die of pneumonia each year(Borgen Project, n.d.). This is substantial because this data only includes how many children die of pneumonia and not how many people in general are affected by pneumonia. From this data it is inferred that India has more pneumonia cases than America.
How America compares to these statistics rely on multiple factors. The pneumonia cases in America are larger than those in England because England’s population is substantially smaller than America, with America’s population at 326,766,748 people and England’s population at 66,573,504 people as of 2018. The reasons behind why the amount of Japan’s pneumonia cases is larger despite America having a larger population may be because Japan is the most aged society in the world, and pneumonia is more common in people that are older than or are 65 or are children less than 5. America has less cases of pneumonia than India because India’s population is larger than that of America(1,348,256,718). Additionally, India has a lack of healthcare facilities.
Treatments of Pneumonia:
Taking antibiotic, antiviral, or antifungal drugs depending on the specific cause of the disease is the treatment for pneumonia. Most cases of pneumonia can be treated at home by taking these medications. Bacterial pneumonia usually improves after one to three days of antibiotic treatment. Viral pneumonia usually improves in one to three weeks of antiviral treatment(Healthline 2017). Doctors may also prescribe over-the-counter medication like aspirin to relieve pain and cough medicine to calm coughing.
People should also take certain steps at home to help their recovery. These steps include:
-Getting a lot of rest. Sleep helps the immune system fight the infection.
-Following their treatment plan. Patients should listen to what their doctors advise in order to cure their pneumonia
-Taking all of their prescribed medicine. Even if patients feel better before finishing their medicine, it is imperative to take all of it to make sure that bacteria that is resistant to the antibiotics do not form. If antibiotic-resistant bacteria do form, a patient’s bacteria could come back.
-Not overworking themselves. Overexertion can cause pneumonia to come back even after taking medicine.
If the symptoms of pneumonia are very severe, patients may be hospitalized. In the hospital, treatment can include:
-Intravenous antibiotics: These drugs are injected into the veins of the patient
-Respiratory therapy: This form of treatment uses many techniques, which include delivering medication to the lungs.
-Oxygen therapy: This form of treatment helps maintain the oxygen level in the bloodstream.
It is most important for a patient to take their antibiotic, antiviral, or antifungal medication to improve and cure their case of pneumonia as these drugs are the most effective against it.
This image represents antibiotics used to cure pneumonia
How a Person’s Life is Affected by Pneumonia:
Timothy had been coughing and had a hard time breathing for the past few months. Additionally, he had many fevers and felt tired all the time. Just recently, his doctor diagnosed him with bacterial pneumonia. His doctor inferred that he got bacterial pneumonia from inhaling airborne droplets from the cough of someone else who already had pneumonia. He prescribed antibiotics for Timothy to take and told him to rest and not overwork himself. Timothy frequently played basketball and loved to go outside. However, after obtaining pneumonia, he was always too sick and tired to play. Whenever he tried to play, he would always end up out of breath and would have to stop. He also decided to play less because he did not want to spread his pneumonia.
Luckily, after taking the antibiotics for a couple of days, he started to feel better. He coughed less and had fewer fevers. However, he still felt tired and still resisted from playing basketball. After he finished using the antibiotics given to him by his doctor, he felt a lot better. He no longer experienced fevers and stopped coughing. He also felt more energetic. Timothy went back to his doctor and told him that he felt better. The doctor gave him an x-ray and later told him that he was cured of his pneumonia. Timothy was then able to continue playing basketball.
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“Pneumonia.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, 11 Feb. 2018, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/pneumonia.
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Viboud Cecile, “Pneumonia in the Japanese Population.” NCBI, 11 Feb. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378946/.