Pneumonia is the lung infection that can kill, so it should always be taken seriously.
Pneumonia means inflammation of our lung cells (alveoli). Their walls become swollen with fluid that makes it harder for oxygen and carbon dioxide to exchange in the bloodstream.
Around 1% of us get community acquired pneumonia (CAP) each year — 100,000 people are admitted to hospital in the UK alone. This is only a tiny proportion of the millions of us who get coughs, colds or bronchitis. Usually self-treatable, they occasionally require antibiotics.
Causes and Risks of Pneumonia
Most pneumonias are caused by inhaled bacteria. Some are due to flu, other viruses or rarer infections such as legionnaire’s disease. We’re more likely to develop CAP if we’re older, frail, smoke or drink heavily, already have diabetes, or existing cardiovascular, lung or immune system problems, or neurological conditions that affect breathing. People in hospital are also at increased risk.
You’ll have a cough, fever, feel and look very unwell; feel unusually breathless with green phlegm, perhaps containing bright-red or rusty-brown blood. You may have sharp chest pain when breathing, your blood pressure may fall and you may become confused or develop sepsis.
Your doctor will be able to detect abnormal sounds in your chest, assess your pulse and breathing rates and check your blood pressure and blood-oxygen levels.
Some of the germs that cause pneumonia do spread from person to person, so you may be infectious, depending on which type you’ve contracted. However, not everyone who is exposed to the same germs will necessarily develop pneumonia and fungal pneumonia isn’t contagious.
Milder CAP can often be treated at home with self-care and antibiotics, but you’ll feel weak and tired afterwards — and recovery is said to take a week for every decade of your age.
If you’re frail and vulnerable or your condition deteriorates, you’ll need to go into hospital for a chest X-ray, scan, heart trace and blood tests, IV antibiotics and if necessary, oxygen treatment. Sadly, over 5% of people admitted with pneumonia will die and this figure rises for those who need to be treated in an intensive care unit (ICU).
Ways to ease a new cough
- For viral infections, get plenty of rest and drink extra fluids.
- Soothe coughs with warm honey and lemon drinks.
- Ease a blocked nose and cough by inhaling steam from a bowl of boiled water with a towel over your head.
- Ask your pharmacist about over-the counter remedies, mentioning any current medication you’re taking.
- Seek urgent medical advice if you’re breathless, coughing up blood, have chest pain or feel faint or confused.
E332 – Pneumonia and Diabetes – www.diabetic.today