Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 7th 2017 Contents A24 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Friday, April 7, 2017
Your chest is tight, and at times,
it's hard to catch your breath. You
wheeze or cough so hard that your
sides soon ache. You're so tired, it's
as if all the blood has drained from
your body. A fever spikes. You get
chills and begin to shake.
These are all signs of pneumonia, a
serious lung infection that claims the
lives of hundreds of thousands of people
around the world each year.
Here are five key things to know about
this potentially deadly illness.
1. What causes pneumonia?
Pneumonia can be caused by a virus,
bacteria or even a fungus. Although
pneumonia itself is not contagious, the
germs that can cause it are. If caused by
a virus, it can easily develop into bac-
terial pneumonia, which can be quite
Pneumonia occurs when the air sacs,
or alveoli, of the lungs fill with fluid
or pus. That makes it harder to take a
breath and get enough oxygen. With-
out treatment, oxygen levels can fall to
Pneumonia can occur in one lung or
both lungs, which is called double pneu-
monia. Or you can have it and not even
know it, a condition known as "walking
2. Risk factors for pneumonia
Most healthy people can fight off
pneumonia, but for the young, old, frail
or immune-compromised, the disease
can be tough to battle. In the United
States alone, pneumonia kills about
50,000 people a year, mostly adults
over 75 and children under five.
According to Unicef, more than 2,500
children a day die from pneumonia
around the world, most of those under
the age of two, making it the leading
cause of death for little ones.
Anyone with a chronic disease such
as diabetes, kidney problems, heart
failure, HIV/Aids or a lung disease
like COPD is also at high risk, as is
anyone undergoing chemotherapy or
taking an immunosuppressant drug.
Smoking and drinking too much al-
cohol can also raise your chances of
getting the disease.
3. Pneumonia symptoms
Many of the symptoms of pneumonia
mimic those of a cold or the flu. So how
do you tell the difference?
In general, colds tend to come on
rather slowly, probably with a runny
nose and sore throat. If you add fever,
body aches and headache that come on
quickly, it could be you have the flu.
Pneumonia is usually a complication
of cold or flu, when the illness lodges
in the lungs.
If your pneumonia is caused by a vi-
rus, the symptoms will be flu-like for
the first few days: dry cough, fever,
headache, shaking chills, extreme fa-
tigue, a poor appetite, and muscle pain
and weakness. But then the cough will
worsen and produce mucus, fever will
spike, and breathing will worsen. You
might have a sharp or stabbing chest
pain. Lips might turn bluish.
People who have viral pneumonia
are at high risk of developing bacterial
With bacterial pneumonia, you could
also have a very high fever (105 degrees)
and profuse sweating, with fast, la-
boured breathing and a higher pulse.
Due to lack of oxygen, there could be
a bluish tinge under your nails. There
could be mental confusion, especially
in the elderly.
If you think you have symptoms of
pneumonia, don't hesitate. See a doctor
4. Treatment for pneumonia
To verify that you have pneumonia,
your doctor will probably order a chest
X-ray, in which the fluid-filled sacs can
be clearly seen.
Treatment depends on the cause. For
viral pneumonia, an antiviral medica-
tion may be prescribed, while antibiot-
ics are used to treat fungal and bacterial
pneumonia. Most bacterial pneumonia
is caused by Streptococcus bacteria,
followed by Haemophilius and staph-
Unfortunately, the rise of antibi-
otic-resistant strains, or serotypes,
of Streptococcus bacteria is making
it more difficult to treat pneumonia,
especially if it is caught in a hospital
setting, where resistant bacteria are
more commonly found.
5. Preventing pneumonia
The best way to prevent pneumonia
is to take advantage of vaccinations.
Pneumonia often follows the flu, so
getting a yearly flu vaccination is key.
For those in high-risk populations,
three types of pneumonia vaccines are
currently available: PCV13 or pneu-
mococcal conjugate vaccine, which
protects against a few serotypes of
Streptococcal bacteria; PPSV23 or
pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine,
which protects against many more; and
Hib, or Haemophilus influenzae type
Each has certain risks and recom-
mendations, so check with your health
care provider to be sure the vaccine is
safe for you or your family. (cnn.com)
Hillary Clinton stops her
speech to cough at a
rally in Cleveland, Ohio,
in September shortly
before she was
pneumonia. AP PHOTO
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