Dr Yang Tze Yi Steve
Pneumonia is a potentially life-threatening condition that causes the air sacs in the lungs to become filled with pus or fluid. It is caused by many pathogens, of which Streptococcus Pneumoniae is the most common. Other pathogens include viruses which can cause influenza. These infections are usually treated with antiviral medications or antibiotics, sometimes in combination.
Pneumonia can develop as a result of flu. Common symptoms of flu are fever or chills, cough or sore throat, and a runny or stuffy nose. When you have the flu, you may also experience a headache, fatigue and body aches.
With pneumonia, which is a lung infection, symptoms will affect the respiratory tract and breathing difficulties are common. This will be accompanied by a fever, body chills, and a cough that may produce blood-tinged phlegm. Some patients may also experience pain in the chest when taking deep breaths.
When you have pneumonia, you may experience some, but not necessarily all of the following symptoms:
To diagnose pneumonia, your doctor will review your medical history and conduct a physical examination. This will be followed by diagnostic tests to confirm if you have pneumonia.
Common diagnostic tests for pneumonia include chest X-rays, complete blood count and pulse oximetry.
In situations where the patient is older, severe symptoms are present, or the presence of any other health problems, your doctor may recommend additional tests such as blood gas, sputum, blood culture, bronchoscopy or chest computed tomography (CT) scan.
Children and the elderly have a higher risk of developing pneumonia. Especially if they:
Pneumonia can be acquired outside of a healthcare setting, even if you may be healthy, and this is known as community-acquired pneumonia. Community-acquired pneumonia can happen through the following ways:
Through a virus – Viral pneumonia is a mild type of pneumonia. It is most commonly acquired by infants under the age of two following a cold, influenza, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Viral Pneumonia can become serious if left untreated.
From bacteria – Bacterial pneumonia can occur on its own, or after you have been sick with another illness. It can be caused by different types of bacteria and typically affects one lobe of the lung.
From fungi – Fungal pneumonia can be acquired by breathing in fungal organisms. Common examples include bird droppings or soil containing fungi. People with a weakened immune system are most susceptible.
Through aspiration – Aspiration pneumonia can develop if you inhale saliva, vomit, food, or drink into your lungs either by accident or as a result of a brain injury, illness, or during abuse of drugs or alcohol.
Pneumonia can also be acquired in a healthcare or hospital setting and is known as healthcare-acquired and hospital-acquired pneumonia respectively.
Healthcare-acquired pneumonia is caused by bacteria present in outpatient clinics or long-term care facilities and can be difficult to treat as such bacteria is often resistant to antibiotics.
Hospital-acquired pneumonia can develop during a hospital stay while being treated for another condition. Again, being resistant to treatment, this type of pneumonia is difficult to treat, and requires stronger antibiotics with potentially more side-effects.
The novel coronavirus COVID-19, first called 2019-nCoV and now better known as COVID-19, is a relatively new virus. Presently, there is a lack of data on the behaviour of this new strain, and the community is racing against time to learn more about it. Health authorities have established that this virus can be passed from human to human.
When the disease progresses, the patient is also likely to develop pneumonia and start experiencing breathlessness.
Members of the public are advised to do the following:
While you can recover from a cold on your own, pneumonia requires medical treatment because it is a lung infection that can turn deadly. Should you suspect pneumonia, see a doctor right away for an accurate diagnosis and timely treatment. The earlier pneumonia is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.
Seek treatment immediately at the nearest Accident & Emergency (A&E) department if you notice the following symptoms: a high fever, inability to keep food down, experiencing breathing issues, acting confused or delirious, or coughing up blood. These are serious complications of pneumonia and have to be attended to immediately, especially if the sufferers are children or elderly.
Those who suspect they may have contracted the COVID-19 novel coronavirus should visit the nearest A&E department for medical attention.