Pneumonia - Risks, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Pneumonia - Risks, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Depending on where you live, old man winter has blown in and it looks like he’s planning on being here for a while.  So, this is as good a time as any to look at pneumonia.  Please remember (how could you forget?) that I’m not a doctor.  As always, consult with your physician for diagnosis and treatment.

So, what is pneumonia?  Well, your lungs are filled with tiny air sacs.  Pneumonia is an infection that causes these sacs to fill with pus and fluid.  This infection can cause chills, fever, coughing with phlegm, and difficulty breathing.  Pneumonia can be contagious or non-contagious depending on the cause of the infection. Pneumonia can be transmitted from person to person via a microscopic bacteria (contagious) or it can be caused by a tiny particle of food or water that went down the wrong pipe into the lung and breeds bacteria (aspiration pneumonia - non-contagious).

Obviously, anyone can be at risk for developing pneumonia but older adults (65+) and younger children (under 2) are more susceptible.  Also, smokers are more vulnerable (yet another reason to quit).  There are also medical conditions such as COPD and heart disease that can increase the chances of a contagious infection and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, stroke, and dementia that can increase the chances of aspiration pneumonia.  Also, not to be forgotten, being hospitalized with breathing assistance (like intensive care) can increase lung exposure to all types of bacteria and viruses.

There are a lot of symptoms of pneumonia - again, see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.  Here are a few:

  • Coughing (sometimes with phlegm or pus)
  • Chest pain when breathing or coughing
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Pneumonia can also cause confusion, increased falls, and difficulty with normal activities, especially in seniors.

If you suspect pneumonia, see your doctor immediately!  They can order the necessary tests to make a diagnosis and map out a treatment plan.  If untreated, pneumonia can become life-threatening.  This is especially true for older adults.

As they say in sports, the best offense is a good defense.  So what preventative measures can you take to protect yourself from pneumonia?  You can start by getting vaccinated.  Currently, you can get preventative vaccinations not only at the doctor’s office but also at most drug and grocery stores!  Also, eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, get plenty of sleep, stay active, and for goodness sake, STOP SMOKING!


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