Pneumonia   causes, symptoms and treatment
Photo: Medilife

What is pneumonia?

Accroding to Johns Hopkins Medicine, pneumonia is an infection of one or both of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. It is a serious infection in which the air sacs fill with pus and other liquid. While lobar pneumonia affects one or more sections (lobes) of the lungs, bronchial pneumonia (also known as bronchopneumonia) affects patches throughout both lungs.

Types of pneumonia?

Pneumonia is classified into four types:

Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP)

Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP)

Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP)

Aspiration pneumonia

Symptoms of pneumonia

Pneumonia symptoms can be mild to life-threatening. They can include:

coughing that may produce phlegm (mucus)


sweating or chills

shortness of breath that happens while doing normal activities or even while resting

chest pain that’s worse when you breathe or cough

feelings of tiredness or fatigue

loss of appetite

nausea or vomiting


Other symptoms can vary according to your age and general health:

Children under 5 years old may have fast breathing or wheezing.

Infants may appear to have no symptoms, but sometimes they may vomit, lack energy, or have trouble drinking or eating.

Older people may have milder symptoms. They can also exhibit confusion or a lower than normal body temperature.

Causes of pneumonia

There are several types of infectious agents that can cause pneumonia.

Bacterial pneumonia

The most common cause of bacteria pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae. Other causes include:

  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae
  • Haemophilus influenzae
  • Legionnella pneumophila

Viral pneumonia

Respiratory viruses are often the cause of pneumonia. Some examples include:

  • influenza (flu)
  • respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • rhinoviruses (common cold)

Viral pneumonia is usually milder and can improve in one to three weeks without treatment.

Fungal pneumonia

Fungi from soil or bird droppings can cause pneumonia. They most often cause pneumonia in people with weakened immune systems. Examples of fungi that can cause pneumonia include:

  • Pneumocystis jirovecii
  • Cryptococcus species
  • Histoplasmosis species

The complications of pneumonia

Most people with pneumonia respond well to treatment, but pneumonia can be very serious and even deadly.

You are more likely to have complications if you are an older adult, a very young child, have a weakened immune system, or have a serious medical problem like diabetes or cirrhosis. Complications may include:

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This is a severe form of respiratory failure.

  • Lung abscesses. These are pockets of pus that form inside or around the lung. They may need to be drained with surgery

  • Respiratory failure. This requires the use of a breathing machine or ventilator.

  • Sepsis. This is when the infection gets into the blood. It may lead to organ failure.

The treatment of pneumonia

Treatment depends on the type of pneumonia you have. Most of the time, pneumonia is treated at home, but severe cases may be treated in the hospital. Antibiotics are used for bacterial pneumonia. Antibiotics may also speed recovery from mycoplasma pneumonia and some special cases. Most viral pneumonias don’t have specific treatment. They usually get better on their own.

Other treatment may include eating well, increasing fluid intake, getting rest, oxygen therapy, pain medicine, fever control, and maybe cough-relief medicine if cough is severe.

How to prevent pneumonia?

Check with your healthcare provider about getting immunizations. The flu is a common cause of pneumonia. Because of that, getting a flu shot every year can help prevent both the flu and pneumonia.

There is also a pneumococcal vaccine. It will protect you from a common form of bacterial pneumonia. Children younger than age 5 and adults ages 65 and older should get this shot.

The pneumococcal shot is also recommended for all children and adults who are at increased risk of pneumococcal disease due to other health conditions.

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