LiveMD offers information on pneumonia, how to protect yourself from contracting this illness and treatment options to get you feeling back to normal in no time.
What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection that affects the lungs. It occurs when bacteria or viruses are inhaled. The lungs become inflamed and may fill with fluid, making breathing extremely difficult.
Who is Most at Risk for Pneumonia?
Anyone can contract pneumonia but people who have a weaker immune system, are already sick from a cold or the flu or have other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma, may be at higher risk for becoming infected with this illness. Young children and the elderly also have increased risk of infection as do smokers.
What are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?
The signs and symptoms of pneumonia may vary depending on the severity of the infection and whether it was caused by a bacteria or virus. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Phlegm that may contain blood or may be green or yellow in colour
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain or tightness in the chest
- Severe chills and shaking
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Changes in mental awareness
How can I Protect Myself from Getting Sick?
The best way to protect yourself from getting pneumonia is to practice good hygiene techniques. Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water or use hand sanitizer. Make sure that all surfaces are disinfected and try to stay away from other people that are sick with colds, the flu, pneumonia, chickenpox, measles or pertussis. Children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems should be vaccinated with the flu shot every year and anyone who is at a higher risk of developing pneumonia should receive the pneumococcal vaccine.
What Treatment Options are Available?
If you or a loved one believe that you have contracted pneumonia, it is important to see a doctor right away. A doctor will usually run a series of test such as blood work, x-rays and test the mucus from your lungs to determine if your illness is pneumonia and whether it was caused by a bacteria or virus. If it is a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be prescribed as will medications to reduce the fever. Inhalers and cough medications can help to make breathing easier as well. If the infection is severe, the patient may need to be hospitalized. Taking good care of yourself by getting lots of sleep, drinking plenty of fluids, taking your medications as prescribed and not smoking should have you feeling better much quicker.
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