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Pneumonia

pneumonia

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lung tissue. It is usually due to infection. Pneumonia tends to be more serious than bronchitis. Bronchitis is an inflammation or infection of the large airways - the bronchi. Sometimes bronchitis and pneumonia occur together which is called bronchopneumonia.

How does pneumonia occur?

You may breathe in some bacteria, viruses, or other germs. They will be trapped in your sputum and killed by your immune system. Sometimes the germs multiply and cause lung infections. This is more likely to happen if you are already in poor health.

How serious is pneumonia?

If you were previously well. With treatment, you are likely to make a full recovery. However, some bacteria, viruses, and other germs are more serious than others. Some people become very ill and require hospital admission. Occasionally, some people who were previously well die from pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

Typical symptoms are cough, fever, sweats, shivers, being off your food and feeling generally unwell. Headaches and aches and pains are common. You usually make more sputum. This may become yellow/green coloured and is sometimes bloodstained.

You may become breathless, breathe fast and develop a tight chest.

What is the treatment for pneumonia?
  • Treatment at home
  • Treatment at home may be fine, if you are normally well and the pneumonia is not severe. An antibiotic such as amoxicillin is prescribed when pneumonia is suspected. Bacterial infection is a common cause and antibiotics kill bacteria. If you are allergic to penicillin (amoxicillin is a type of penicillin) your doctor will prescribe an alternative that works just as well. Antibiotic treatment is usually effective and you can expect to recover fully.

    1. Have lots to drink, to avoid becoming dehydrated.
    2. Take regular paracetamol or ibuprofen, to ease fever and headaches.
    3. Let a doctor know if symptoms do not improve over the following two days.

  • Hospital treatment
  • Hospital admission may be advised if you have severe pneumonia, or if symptoms do not quickly improve after you have started antibiotic treatment. Also, you are more likely to be treated in hospital if you are already in poor health, or if an infection with a more serious infecting germ is suspected. For example, if infection with Legionella pneumophila (the bacterium that causes Legionnaires' disease) is suspected.

    A chest X-ray may be taken to confirm the diagnosis and the extent of the infection.

    Blood tests and sputum tests may be taken to find which bacterium is causing the pneumonia. Sometimes the bacterium that is causing the pneumonia is resistant to the first antibiotic. A switch to another antibiotic is sometimes needed. Sometimes oxygen and other supportive treatments are needed if you have severe pneumonia. Those who become severely unwell may need treatment in an intensive care unit.

Can pneumonia be prevented?

Immunisation against the pneumococcus (the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia) and the annual influenza (flu) virus immunisation are advised if you are at greater risk of developing these infections.Stopping smoking will lessen your risk of developing lung infections.

What is the outlook if I have pneumonia?

If you are well enough to be looked after at home, your outlook is very good. Those who die tend to be older people, or those who also have other health problems.


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