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Pneumonia - Now that I have become a victim of this condition - here it goes:  Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs, usually caused by infection.  There are 84 known strains of pneumonia with 24 strains included in the pneumonia injection.  Pneumonia is of particular concern if you are older than 65 years, have a chronic illness, COPD, or impaired immune system.  However, it can occur in young, healthy individuals.  Pneumonia can range from mild to life-threatening.  Years ago people who contracted pneumonia usually died.



Your body has ways to protect your lungs from infections.  You are frequently exposed to bacteria and viruses that can cause pneumonia, but your body uses a number of defenses such as cough and the normal microorganisms in your body.  More than 100 different microorganisms can cause pneumonia, so if your resistance is lowered it will allow the harmful organisms to get past your body’s defenses and into your lungs.  Once the invading organisms are in your lungs, white blood cells - a key part of your immune system - begin to attack them.  The accumulating invaders, white blood cells and immune system proteins cause the tiny air sacs in your lungs to become inflamed and filled with fluid, leading to the difficult breathing associated with pneumonia.



Pneumonia symptoms vary greatly and can be complicated with the flu.  Common signs and symptoms may include:

·        Fever - not always

·        Cough - usually dry

·        Shortness of breath

·        Sweating - if there is fever

·        Shaking chills

·        Chest discomfort

·        Headache

·        Muscle pain/weakness

·        Fatigue - extreme

Ironically, people in the high-risk groups such as older adults and people with chronic illnesses or weakened immune systems may have fewer or milder symptoms than less vulnerable people do.  Instead of a high temp, older adults may have lower than normal temps.



Community-acquired pneumonia

.  This refers to pneumonia you require in the course of your daily life.  The most common is bacterium streptococcus pneumonia.  Mycoplasma pneumonia produces milder signs and symptoms than other types of pneumonia.  Walking pneumonia is a term used to describe a pneumonia that isn’t severe enough to require bed rest and may result from mycoplasma pneumonia.

Hospital-acquired (nosocomial) pneumonia.

  If you are hospitalized, you are at a higher risk for pneumonia especially if you are breathing with the help of a mechanical ventilator, in an intensive care unit, or have a weakened immune system.  This type of pneumonia can be extremely serious for older adults, young children, COPDers and HIV/AIDS persons.  It usually develops 48 hours after being admitted to the hospital and includes post-op pneumonia.  A common predisposing factor for this type of pneumonia is GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease.)

Aspiration pneumonia.

  This type of pneumonia occurs when you accidently inhale foreign matter into your lungs - most often phlegm, vomit, a pea or bean or any small food particle.  An inebriated person who passes out and then vomits is very likely to aspirate into the lungs causing aspiration pneumonia.

Opportunistic organism pneumonia.

  This type of pneumonia strikes people with weakened immune systems, such as those with AIDS or anyone who has had an organ transplant.  Medications that suppress your immune system such as chemotherapy or corticosteroids (solumedrol, prednisone) can put you at risk for opportunistic pneumonia.

Other pathogens.

  Outbreaks of the flu virus and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) have caused serious, sometimes deadly, pneumonia infections in otherwise healthy people.  TB in the lung can also cause pneumonia.



·        Age:  65or older, especially if you have other health conditions.

·        Certain Diseases:  HIV/AIDS, chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular, diabetes, COPD.  Or if you are impaired by chemotherapy or immunosuppressant drugs.

·        Smoking or alcohol abuse.

·        Hospitalizations in an intensive care unit.

·        Surgery or traumatic injury.  People who are immobilized and unable to cough - to clear lungs - and are lying flat allowing mucus to collect in the lungs, providing a breeding ground for bacteria.



·        Bacteria in your bloodstream.

·        Fluid accumulation and infection around your lungs.

·        Lung abscess.

·        Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)


·        Physical exam

·        Chest x-ray

·        Blood and mucus tests



·        Bacterial.  Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics.

·        Viral.  Antibiotics aren’t effective against most viral forms of pneumonia.  Some may respond to antiviral meds but generally rest and plenty of fluids is the treatment.

·        Mycoplasma.  This form is treated with antibiotics but recovery is slow.  Fatigue may continue long after the infection has cleared.

·        Fungal.  Fungal pneumonia is treated with antifungal meds.


Over the counter meds are recommended to reduce fever, treat your aches, pains, and sooth the cough.  You don’t want to suppress the cough because coughing helps clear your lungs.



Sever pneumonia patients are hospitalized and treated with IV antibiotics and possibly oxygen.



Your doctor will most likely schedule a follow-up chest x-ray and an office visit after six weeks or when your infection clears.


·        Get vaccinated.  Both flu and pneumonia vaccine.

·        Wash your hands.  Wash hands for one minute and/or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

·        Don’t smoke.  Smoking damages your lungs natural defenses against respiratory infections.

·        Take care of yourself.  Proper rest and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains along with moderate exercise can help keep your immune system strong.

·        Get treatment for GERD.  Treat symptomatic GERD, and lose weight if you are overweight.

·        Protect others from infection.  If you have pneumonia, try to stay away from other people or wear a mask and always cough into a tissue that is disposed into your own bag.


Believe me!  You don’t want to get pneumonia!

Reprinted with the permission from the Cape Cod COPD Support Group Newsletter

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