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What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an acute inflammation of one but usually both lungs that affects millions of people each in the U.S. Pneumonia can be mild, severe or fatal, but its severity depends on the cause, your age and general health. In adults pneumonia may follow influenza or a common cold.

What are the causes of pneumonia?

Any inhalant or substance that will inflame the lungs and cause fluids and pus to accumulate in the lungs may cause pneumonia. The most common substances that cause pneumonia include:


Bacterium is the most common cause of pneumonia (especially the one called streptococcus pneumoniae). This bacterium is also called pneumococcus and is responsible for about 90% cases of bacterial pneumonia. Other bacteria that may trigger pneumonia include haemophilus influenzae.


Pneumonia can also be caused by viral invasion of the lungs. Viral pneumonia is milder than a bacterial infection and is the cause of about 90% of deaths for people above 65 and AIDS victims. The most common viruses that may predispose a person to pneumonia include adenovirus, parainfluenza, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Fungus or other foreign substance that invade the lungs:

  • These substances or organisms reach the lungs through the respiratory passages and infects people whose immune system is suppressed.
  • It often precedes an upper respiratory infection
  • Cigarette smoke may predispose you to pneumonia
  • Alcohol consumption may aggravate its severity
  • Immunosuppressive disorders may also predispose you to pneumonia

Underlying disorders

There are several underlying disorders that may increase your susceptibility to contracting pneumonia. These disorders include upper respiratory infections and other disorders such as:

  • Bacterial invasion of the bloodstream
  • Disorders of the central nervous system
  • Inflammation of heart membranes
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic bronchitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs known as bronchi)

Forms of pneumonia
  • Bronchopneumonia - when the bronchi (air tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs) are involved, the infection is called bronchopneumonia
  • Lobar pneumonia - This condition involves one or more lobes of the lung.
  • Aspiration pneumonia - this condition occurs when there's abnormality of fluids or secretions in the lower airways.
  • Legionnaire pneumonia - this condition is caused by a bacterium called legionnella pneumophilla which is often characterized by muscle stiffness and bloody sputum.

What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

Symptoms of pneumonia are a little similar to those of asthma and other upper respiratory disorders. Always see your physician for proper diagnosis and testing. However, if you or your child matches at least 6 of the following symptoms, you might be suffering from pneumonia:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Pain in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rattle sound in the chest
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Coughing up colored or bloodstained sputum (usually pinkish and darkens as the infection worsen)
  • Bluish skin (due to insufficient oxygen in the blood)
  • Loss of energy or weakness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches and pain
  • Confusion (in old people)

What are treatment options for pneumonia?

Immunization for pneumococcal pneumonia is recommended for children under two years old, adults 65 or older, and others at risk. Penicillin is most commonly used to treat pneumococcal pneumonia and other pneumonias caused by bacteria. Again, in case of bacterial pneumonia, antibiotics may be helpful if used appropriately with the doctor or a pharmacist's consent.

Other forms of pneumonia such as viral pneumonia may not respond to antibiotic therapy. You'll have to talk to a qualified health practitioner about your symptoms and take whatever medication your health practitioner prescribes for your condition.

Is pneumonia contagious?

In rare cases, pneumonia was reported to be contracted from other persons. Most cases of pneumonia are not due to exposure to germs but mainly due to the weakened immune system.

There are germs that resides in your mouth and throat that your body keeps from entering the lungs. If your immunity is weakened and can no longer fight these substances, one or both your lungs will be inflamed, causing pneumonia. Unfortunately, if you have had pneumonia once you are more likely to have it again.


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