Unravelling Pneumonia: Understanding Symptoms and Causes

The respiratory disease known as pneumonia is characterised by inflammation of one or both of the lungs’ alveoli or air sacs. These sacs have the potential to fill with pus or fluid, resulting in symptoms that can be anything from minor to fatal. Comprehending the signs and origins of pneumonia is essential for efficient avoidance, prompt identification, and suitable intervention.

Symptoms of Pneumonia

Pneumonia can cause minor to severe symptoms, depending on the type of germ causing the infection, the patient’s age, and general health.

The symptoms include:

1. Cough: This can be a dry cough, or it could produce clear, white, yellow, or even greenish phlegm.

2. Sweating, chills, and fever: The temperature can fluctuate between low and high.

3. Shortness of breath: When the lungs’ ability to hold air is weakened, even routine tasks may become challenging.

4. Chest pain: This pain often worsens when taking a deep breath or coughing.

5. Fatigue or feeling unusually weak or lethargic.

6. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and confusion, especially in older adults.

The symptoms in newborns and early children can be less specific and include trouble eating, difficulty breathing, and irritability. In the early stages, the symptoms can be misdiagnosed as a cold or flu because they can progress swiftly.

Causes of Pneumonia

Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and the causes can vary with age and geographic location:

  1. Bacterial Pneumonia: The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in adults is Streptococcus pneumoniae. Other bacteria like Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Chlamydophila pneumoniae are frequent causes of “walking pneumonia,” a milder form of the disease.
  2. Viral Pneumonia: Respiratory viruses, including influenza (the flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), are common causes of pneumonia. Viral pneumonia is usually milder, but in cases like influenza and COVID-19, it can be severe or fatal.
  3. Fungal Pneumonia: This is more common in individuals with chronic health problems or weakened immune systems, including those caused by diseases such as cancer or HIV/AIDS. Common fungi that cause pneumonia include Pneumocystis jirovecii, Cryptococcus species, and Histoplasma species, which are prevalent in specific geographic regions.

What Are Different Stages of Pneumonia Symptoms?

There are 4 stages of pneumonia symptoms, which have been described below:

Stage 1: Congestion: In the first stage, which occurs during the first day or first few hours of infection, you will experience coughing and fatigue.

Stage 2: Red Hepatization: This is the second stage and this is where the symptoms start to worsen. On conducting lab tests, your lungs will look deep red and it confirms the presence of pneumococcal bacteria in your body.

Stage 3: Grey Hepatization: The colour of the lungs changes from red to grey, but you still have pneumonia symptoms.

Stage 4: Resolution: This is the stage of healing. In this stage, your airways will start to get back to normal and symptoms will start to ease.

Some pneumonia patients may heal quickly while some may take time and it all depends on how your body reacts to the medicine. Taking medicines at the proper time and maintaining a healthy diet will allow you to get well soon quickly.

Risk Factors

Certain factors increase the risk of developing pneumonia:

  • Age: People 65 years of age or older and infants and children under the age of two are more vulnerable.
  • Medical conditions: Weakened immune systems and long-term illnesses like diabetes, asthma, COPD, or heart disease make people more vulnerable.
  • Both drinking alcohol and smoking can weaken the respiratory tract’s natural defences against respiratory illnesses.
  • Hospitalization: Especially being in critical care, especially if breathing apparatuses (ventilators) are being used.

Prevention and Treatment

Vaccination, maintaining excellent hygiene, washing your hands frequently, and quitting smoking are preventative strategies. When it comes to preventing specific forms of viral and bacterial pneumonia, vaccinations are very crucial. Depending on the kind of pneumonia and the severity of symptoms, treatment usually consists of antifungal medicine for fungal infections, antivirals for some viral instances, and antibiotics for bacterial infections. Maintaining hydration intake, taking cough medication, and taking over-the-counter fever reducers are examples of essential supportive care.

Knowing the signs and causes of pneumonia can help with early diagnosis and treatment, which lowers the chance of serious consequences and speeds up recovery. Some pneumonia may be mild, which will allow you to recover at home while serious cases may require hospitalisation. With the emergence of vaccines, it is always advisable that you take a complete dose of pneumonia vaccine and prevent yourself from this deadly disease.