Pneumonia: is it contagious? See symptoms, treatment, remedies

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation of the air sacs in one or both lungs . It is a disease caused by the invasion of an infectious agent, such as bacteria, protozoa and fungi. In some cases, it can happen due to allergic reactions.

High fever and body aches (especially in the chest area) are just some of the symptoms caused by pneumonia.

When it reaches the alveoli, small structures responsible for gas exchange, the infection can affect the respiratory quality and bring other health consequences.

It is more common for the infection to occur in individuals who have weakened immune systems. Thus, when they come into contact with bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae , they are at great risk of being affected.

The disease becomes more common at specific times of the year, such as in winter. This is mainly due to the sudden drops in temperature.

In addition, the immune system may be more susceptible to infection by viruses and bacteria present in the air, saliva and other types of body secretion. But, these are just a few of the means. Contact with toxic agents can also trigger pneumonia.

Basically, pneumonia is caused by the penetration of an infectious or irritating agent in the lung parenchyma, where gas exchange occurs. The presence of any type of microorganism can cause a very large inflammatory reaction in the region of the lungs.

For this reason, pneumonia is nothing more than an attempt by the body itself to expel this external agent that causes the infection.

However, unlike what happens in illnesses like the flu and the cold , the agents of pneumonia are not easily transmitted. However, despite being less contagious, this should not lessen the concern about this disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pneumonia is responsible for 1.6 million deaths each year in the world, being the 2nd most common respiratory disease in Brazil.

In people over the age of 50, the disease is an even greater risk, as aging is considered a primary risk factor, due to the weaker immune system. 50% of all hospital admissions in the country for pneumonia occur in this age group.

In ICD-10 , International Classification of Diseases, pneumonia is found by code J15 .

Continue reading and understand the importance of correct treatment and prevention of pneumonia. Good reading!

Causes

Pneumonia can happen due to different external factors, but it usually occurs due to agents such as bacteria, fungi and protozoa.

When it comes to bacterial pneumonia, for example, the cause is usually caused by the invasion of Streptococcus pneumoniae (also known as pneumococcus), Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, etc.

Less common, but possible, pneumonia can occur due to chemical or physical irritation, originating in the region of the lungs.

When the cause of pneumonia is difficult to diagnose, the doctor can start treatment even without confirming the agent that caused it, because there is a high probability that the causative agent is one of those mentioned above.

How does pneumonia affect the body?

Our organism has several tools and mechanisms to circumvent the invaders and defend themselves, but this is not always possible. When he fails to win we end up getting sick.

The nose and airways, for example, are the first barrier to filter out germs and impurities present in the air we breathe. Thus, they help protect the lungs from infections.

However, sometimes this transition happens. Some factors contribute to this, such as a weakened immune system, such as during a cold or the flu, for example, or when it is a strong or large amount of infectious agent.

In the case of pneumonia, when the causative agent reaches the lungs, the alveoli become inflamed and fill with fluid. Thereafter, the symptoms of the disease begin to manifest. Cough , chills, fever and difficulty breathing are the most common.

In a case of pneumonia, gas exchange in the lung and the transport of oxygen through the blood is also impaired. When this happens, the cells in the body do not function properly and a number of complications can arise.

Due to this factor and the risk of the infection spreading, pneumonia is a major concern, which can lead patients to serious complications. Therefore, the doctor should always be consulted when symptoms are present.

There are two main ways that pneumonia affects the lungs. One of the possibilities affects only part (or lobe) of the lung, a condition called lobar pneumonia. The other way affects the two parts with spots (outbreaks) in both lobes. This manifestation is called bronchial pneumonia or bronchopneumonia.

Types of pneumonia

Pneumonia can be divided according to the organism that caused the disease or according to the environment and the form in which it was acquired.

When it comes to the place where the infection occurred, for example, pneumonia is classified in two ways: hospital- acquired pneumonia and community-acquired pneumonia .

Hospital-acquired pneumonia, as the name implies, occurs when the disease occurs during a hospital stay. When compared to the other types, it can be more worrying. This is because the bacteria involved may be more resistant to the effects of antibiotics , because in this environment there is a flora (set) of more resistant bacteria.

In the case of community-acquired pneumonia, on the other hand, these are the types of pneumonia started outside the hospital environment.

Atypical pneumonia

Atypical pneumonia usually differs from “typical” cases of the disease in that it is caused by less common microorganisms. In addition, they may also have different symptoms.

It can also present different results at the time of exams, especially on chest radiography and pulmonary auscultation, a technique used to identify lung sounds. Usually, this type of pneumonia is contagious.

Transmission can happen through contact through saliva, being more common in people who share small spaces, as with people in prison or among family members.

This type of disease has treatment and cure. In some cases, the patient can recover at home, with some basic care such as rest and the use of antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.

The symptoms here are similar to those that manifest in other types of pneumonia. In the case of complications, the patient may have difficulty breathing, which can lead to death.

Viral pneumonia

It is the type of pneumonia caused by the invasion of viruses into the body. Upon invading the patient’s body, they reach the pulmonary alveoli and end up causing the infection.

Among the most common viruses that cause this disease are also those responsible for causing the flu and cold, such as Haemophilus influenzae A or B, H1N1 and H5N1, avian influenza viruses.

Read more :  H3N2: the new influenza virus. Know the symptoms, vaccine and more

It usually affects individuals with weakened immunity, such as HIV carriers , premature babies, people with lung diseases or who are undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

Although viral pneumonia is contagious, it is unlikely to cause pneumonia in the person who has been in contact with the virus, unless he is within one of the groups with risk factors.

Bacterial pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia is usually caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). It can also be caused by the agents Klebsiella pneumoniae , Staphylococcus aureus , Haemophilus influenzae , Legionella pneumophila , among others.

Generally, this type of pneumonia is not contagious and can be treated with antibiotics.

However, in the elderly and newborns, it can be a greater threat, requiring, in some cases, hospitalization. Common symptoms include high fever, difficulty breathing, coughing and phlegm. It can arise as a complication secondary to a cold or flu that has not been treated properly.

The pneumococcal pneumonia caused by pneumococcus bacteria is the cause of three out of 10 cases of pneumonia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this type of disease is responsible for 1.6 million deaths each year in the world, mainly in cases of pneumonia in the elderly and children.

Nosocomial pneumonia (hospital)

Known popularly as a type of nosocomial infection, nosocomial pneumonia usually happens when the patient has been hospitalized for a long time.

Because of this, it ends up becoming more prone to contact with bacteria that can infect the body, causing a health problem. Patients in ICUs are the most affected by the infection.

The causes of nosocomial pneumonia can vary, and can be caused by viruses, fungi, bacteria or protozoa. What differentiates this type of pneumonia from others is the way it is contracted, being the most common infection acquired in hospitals. Thus, it also has treatment and cure.

Chemical pneumonia

Little known, this type is usually caused by inhaling toxic agents. When they come into contact with the organism, these harmful substances (smoke, chemicals and pesticides) can cause irritation of the pulmonary alveoli and even the lungs, causing bronchial inflammation and triggering respiratory symptoms.

It is essential that the problem receives proper treatment as soon as possible, as long-term infection can impair essential body functions, such as breathing.

Fungus pneumonia

Fungus pneumonia is considered the rarest form of the disease and can also be the most serious. It is more common, when it happens, in people with chronic or immunodepressed diseases, such as patients with HIV, patients being treated for some type of cancer or who have had an organ transplant.

The fungi that can cause this type of pneumonia are more specific, namely Histoplasma capsulatum , Coccidioides immitis and Blastomyces dermatitidis.

Depending on the fungus that causes pneumonia, this type can be contagious, presenting a faster evolution of symptoms than the other types.

Treatment is done with antifungal drugs. In more severe cases, the patient can be hospitalized and receive the medication intravenously.

Aspiration pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia occurs when fluids, food, or other substances enter the airway or stomach into the lungs.

Often, this type of pneumonia occurs by aspirating gastric juice from the stomach into both lungs. Because it is acidic, it causes lung irritation (pneumonitis). Thus, with the parenchyma inflamed, the chances of an infection by microorganisms becomes greater.

It is a type of pneumonia that affects more young people or the elderly. It is not so common to happen, as our body has a series of defenses that help prevent the passage of substances to the lungs.

Therefore, there are two conditions in which aspiration pneumonia can occur, either by failure of the defense mechanisms that protect these organs or when the object that has reached the lung is irritating enough to cause an inflammatory process.

To prevent aspiration pneumonia, our body uses coughing, glottis closure, among others.

Patients who have difficulty in swallowing, who have had a brain injury or use alcohol and drugs excessively are at a higher risk.

Pneumonia in children

 

The problem is more common among the little ones and can be very serious. Children’s bodies are usually more susceptible to possible external agents that cause infections.

This is because the immune system of this age group is still unable to fight all types of bacteria, fungi and viruses that come into contact with the body. Therefore, care must be redoubled.

To prevent children from being exposed to the risk of pneumonia, some preventive precautions can be taken, such as keeping vaccination up to date, encouraging hand hygiene frequently and not leaving them exposed to cigarette smoke, for example.

In newborns, it is important to be careful about exposure to sudden changes in temperature and air conditioning.

Babies who are considered to be most at risk for pneumonia are those born prematurely, weighing less than 2 kg, malnourished, who have not been breastfed or who are frequently exposed to cigarette smoke.

Children who have not received measles and pertussis vaccines , for example, may also be at increased risk for pneumonia.

Pneumonia in children is curable. The treatment can last approximately 2 weeks and can be done using medications prescribed by the doctor.

Other precautions include inhalation (fogging), healthy eating, sufficient water and milk, rest, avoiding public places such as daycare and school, clothing according to the season and avoiding drafts after bathing.

Risk factors

Viral pictures of pneumonia can be related to a number of factors, many of which are interconnected. Flu cases without treatment in conjunction with sudden changes in temperature, for example, can result in the appearance of the problem as a complication of the disease.

In addition, spending a lot of time outside in cold or wet clothes can increase the chances of suffering from the disease, when the body is already weakened. Check out the main risk factors:

Colds or flu not treated

In these conditions, the patient’s organism is more sensitive to complications such as pneumonia, as the immune system is already weakened.

Smoking and alcohol

Smokers are much more likely to suffer from the problem. The same goes for individuals who frequently consume alcoholic beverages.

This is because the use of these substances can interfere with the respiratory system, in addition to affecting the body’s immune system, making it more susceptible to contact with possible external agents, such as viruses and bacteria. Cigarette smoke, for example, can alter the body’s natural defense mechanisms.

Sudden changes in temperature

Very large changes in temperature can affect people’s immunity, leaving them more exposed to risks, since their body is more defenseless.

Air conditioning

The frequent use of air conditioning, whether in the car, at home or at work can also trigger the development of the disease. So it is necessary to be attentive.

The process responsible for climate change leaves the air very dry, which considerably affects the natural hydration of the nasal mucosa and favors contact with microorganisms, such as germs and bacteria.

When the nose is unable to properly filter the air, it is possible that these microorganisms reach the lungs, generating a case of pneumonia in individuals already predisposed to the problem.

People with low immune systems

The chances of pneumonia occurring in healthy people is not a recurring concern, as it is more common in individuals who have some deficiency in the defense of the body.

This decrease in immunity can happen for several reasons, with pneumonia being a risk for patients with cancer, malnutrition, who have previous lung disease, people with HIV, in the face of changes in sleep and even in people under stress .

Is pneumonia contagious?

In general, pneumonia is not considered a contagious disease, even when it is caused by viruses or bacteria. It becomes a major concern when it comes to people who have low immunity.

Thus, being next to someone diagnosed with pneumonia is not as much of a risk as being next to someone with the flu, for example.

Therefore, to avoid pneumonia it is essential to maintain healthy habits and leave your body strengthened and prepared to fight invading agents.

In people with a defenseless organism, pneumonia can be acquired through saliva, secretions, blood transfusion, air and sudden changes in temperature.

What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

 

Pneumonia can present a series of symptoms characteristic of inflammation and other, more specific. Depending on the patient’s age, there may also be a variation in the condition.

In addition, because it is a disease that can be caused by different factors (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.), patients can present different conditions.

But, knowing the rapid evolution that the disease can present, it is important to stay alert and see a doctor in the face of the following symptoms:

High fever and chills

Fever is a response of the common immune system when there are invaders in the body, such as bacteria and viruses. It is a form of defense, since some of these microorganisms do not survive at temperatures above 37 ºC.

That is why it is common for patients with pneumonia to have a fever. With some exceptions, this is a symptom that is usually present in virtually all cases of the disease. In general, patients have high fever, above 38 ºC.

It is common for the patient to also experience chills, a tremor caused during feverish conditions.

Chest pain

Patients in this condition may experience chest pain when performing breathing movements, emptying and filling the lungs.

This pain happens due to the inflammation present and can also occur when the patient has a cough, another symptom of pneumonia.

Back pain

In addition to chest pain, pneumonia can cause pain in other parts of the body. During the illness, the patient is more debilitated, so he may also experience back pain when he coughs and breathes.

Cough and shortness of breath

Depending on the severity of the patient’s condition, there may be shortness of breath as a symptom, as it is a disease that compromises the respiratory system.

Cough, another sign of pneumonia, can occur with the presence of greenish or yellowish phlegm, in some cases with the presence of blood.

Fatigue and feeling unwell

It is common for patients with pneumonia to experience excessive weakness and malaise, which is related to other symptoms, such as pain, shortness of breath and fever, for example.

Mental confusion

Mental confusion is a state in which the patient cannot think clearly and quickly, looking disoriented. It can occur in patients in more advanced states of the disease, who do not receive treatment properly.

Changes in blood pressure

Pneumonia can cause changes in blood pressure, a condition also known as pulmonary hypertension. It occurs when there is an increase in blood pressure in the bloodstream that connects the lungs to the heart.

Other symptoms

The patient with this disease may also have gastrointestinal symptoms that are not specific to pneumonia, such as nausea and vomiting , which may occur due to the presence of phlegm during coughs. Although less common, they can also have diarrhea .

In some cases, the symptoms are similar to a flu condition, in which the patient has a runny nose, sore throat , headache , body pain and sneezing.

Symptoms in children and the elderly

In children and the elderly, symptoms may differ from those in adults. For example, it is possible that in newborns and the elderly, the disease does not manifest any characteristic symptoms.

The most common signs among babies can be vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, cough, restlessness, tiredness , loss of appetite and difficulty breathing.

Healthy elderly people, for example, may have typical symptoms. However, due to the natural aging of the body, the immune system may not function in the same way, fever being a symptom absent in these cases. Other symptoms that can occur involve mental confusion and a dry cough.

Pneumonia or tuberculosis?

Both problems can cause confusion at the time of diagnosis because they have very similar symptoms. The tuberculosis and pneumonia have cough as one of the most common signs of the disease.

The diagnosis becomes more difficult, especially in diabetic patients, with chronic kidney failure, the elderly, people with liver problems or HIV carriers.

In such cases, people may have atypical conditions, making diagnosis more difficult.

But when it comes to differentiating it is important to take into account the time it takes for symptoms to get worse. Pneumonia tends to evolve rapidly, while tuberculosis can take even weeks for the condition to worsen and need medical help.

One of the ways of distinguishing between these two occurs when the patient has typical symptoms of pneumonia, such as fever and cough, but even with the treatment of antibiotics, there is no improvement in the condition. Thus, pulmonary tuberculosis becomes one of the main suspicions.

Another difference is in the infectious agent. While pneumonia occurs by different agents, tuberculosis occurs by a single bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis , also known as Koch’s bacillus.

They also differ by transmission, with tuberculosis being highly more contagious than pneumonia.

For the correct diagnosis, it is also important to analyze the time it took for the disease to manifest. Pneumonia is an acute condition, within a few hours of infection the symptoms begin to affect the patient.

The interval between the appearance of the first signs and the search for a doctor can be between 48 and 72 hours in these cases. In tuberculosis, on the other hand, the process is different. Symptoms appear gradually and more slowly. Cough, the main symptom, also gets worse over time.

Bronchopneumonia

Bronchopneumonia is the most frequent type of bacterial pneumonia, responsible for affecting the peribronchial region. Focal consolidation is one of the main characteristics of this condition, as it specifically affects the bronchi. When this infection expands, it can end up reaching a pulmonary lobe, a condition called lobar pneumonia.

Diagnosis

After identifying the symptoms described above, it is advisable that the patient seek medical help so that the correct diagnosis can be made, which can be made by the general practitioner or the pulmonologist .

Pneumonia usually shows changes in clinical examinations, blood tests, sputum culture, in addition to chest X-rays and lung auscultation. Learn a little more about the exams:

Pulmonary auscultation

With the use of a stethoscope, the doctor will search for the location of the problem and the existence of some kind of obstruction of the bronchi and lungs, in addition to investigating complications such as pleural effusion and pneumothorax , from the sound or noise heard .

Chest X-ray

From an x-ray (photograph of the lungs) it is possible to analyze whether the site has any type of injury, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), among other problems.

Blood count

Blood collection can help to analyze the number of leukocytes and their subtypes. When this value becomes high, it can indicate the presence of an infectious condition, helping in the diagnosis of pneumonia.

Sputum culture

Mainly used to differentiate cases of tuberculosis, pneumonia that is difficult to diagnose or therapeutic failure. Sputum collection comes mainly from the bronchi, from the patient’s cough. Based on the bacteria found, it is possible to make the correct diagnosis, so that the doctor can prescribe the most appropriate treatment.

Bronchoscopy

It is an examination that allows the visualization of the larynx, trachea and bronchi. It is performed with the patient under light sedation, in which a flexible bronchoscope is introduced through the throat.

It is usually a procedure used to diagnose and analyze lung cancer, but also to diagnose pneumonia. It can be done for diagnosis, sample collection or to remove a possible foreign body.

Pulse oximetry

Pulse oximetry is a simple, non-invasive method of measuring the amount of oxygen in the blood. It is not exactly done for the diagnosis, but it can help in monitoring the patient with pneumonia.

With it it is possible to monitor if the patient is able to carry out sufficient oxygen transport.

Pleural fluid culture

In this exam, a puncture is performed with a needle placed between the ribs up to the pleural area (space between the lung and the inner wall of the chest) and a sample of the fluid is taken. It is important for the diagnosis, as it allows the detection of the microorganism that causes the infection, in addition to allowing a histopathological evaluation of the aspirated liquid.

Computed tomography

This is an image exam performed to view the lungs in more detail. It can be done on patients who are not responding well to treatment.

Is there a cure?

Pneumonia is a disease that can be cured . Although it can cause serious complications and present a risk of death, when the diagnosis and treatment are done correctly, the patient tends to improve and resume the normal routine in one week.

This prognosis, however, depends a lot on the clinical condition of each person. People with a lower immune system may take longer to fully recover.

Treatment

The treatment of pneumonia depends on the microorganism causing it. It is usually performed with the use of antibiotics prescribed by the doctor.

When the case in question is considered serious, the patient’s hospitalization may be necessary, especially when it comes to people belonging to risk groups, such as children, the elderly and people with a more vulnerable immune system.

Hospitalization may also be necessary when the person has a high fever or has clinical changes due to pneumonia itself, such as impaired renal function or blood pressure.

Some people may need intravenous treatment, so it is common for them to need hospitalization so that they receive antibiotics for at least 48 hours.

But it is also very common for individuals hospitalized for a long time to end up suffering from a lack of mobility. In complex cases or with serious complications, the patient may need to be transferred to the ICU.

The patient may also have difficulty breathing, characterized by low oxygenation of the blood (the alveolus is full of secretion and does not work properly during gas exchange ).

In addition to the use of medications, treatment can be done with the support of respiratory physiotherapy. In these cases, the physiotherapist guides breathing exercises, the use of chest vibrators and tapping (a kind of chest percussion done with the wrists) to help eliminate secretions inside the lungs, accelerating the patient’s healing.

When pneumonia is caused by fungi or protozoa, for example, specific antimicrobials are prescribed.

Other precautions include good nutrition, oxygen and medications to relieve symptoms such as pain and fever.

In addition to the elderly and children, individuals with chronic diseases (cases of diabetes , asthma , sickle cell anemia and chronic lung disease), such as AIDS patients , should take greater care. People with the HIV virus may suffer from infections caused by fungi known as Pneumocystis jiroveci .

After starting treatment, the improvement of symptoms usually occurs between three or four days, when the patient has no complications or does not have other clinical conditions.

Thus, the treatment of pneumonia can be carried out in three main ways:

Drug treatment

This treatment is usually done after medical evaluation and diagnosis. With the confirmation of the pneumonia picture and the specific type, the patient must start and correctly follow the medical prescriptions.

The medication depends on the infectious agent that caused it, and it can be done with antibiotics, antivirals or antifungals.

It may also be necessary to use medications to relieve symptoms such as pain, fever and to improve breathing.

Hospitalization

When it comes to severe pneumonia or when the patient has a serious chronic illness, hospitalization may be necessary.

At the hospital, medical monitoring prevents the risk of complications by analyzing the heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate, oxygen circulation in the bloodstream (saturation) and the patient’s blood pressure.

Within the possible treatments during hospitalization, the patient can be submitted to the use of intravenous antibiotics, respiratory therapy and oxygen therapy.

Respiratory therapy can be done through various techniques, such as direct delivery of medication to the lungs. In addition, the therapist can assist the patient with breathing exercises that help to increase oxygenation.

The oxygen , for example, is a treatment that aims to maintain the appropriate level of oxygen in the bloodstream. It can be done through the use of a nasal tube (catheter) or a face mask . In more severe cases, orotracheal intubation and the use of a breathing support machine, called mechanical ventilation, may be necessary.

Care at home

To help recovery, the patient can maintain care at home, such as correctly following the medical prescription, resting, drinking plenty of fluids and gradually returning to the study and work routine.

Medicines

Medicines should be prescribed according to the type of pneumonia the patient has. Among the drugs commonly indicated for the treatment of pneumonia, we can mention:

  • Penicillin;
  • Star;
  • Acetylcysteine;
  • Bactrim;
  • Azithromycin;
  • Cefaclor;
  • Clindamycin;
  • Levofloxacin;
  • Fluimucil;
  • Mucosolvan;
  • Ampicillin;
  • Avalox;
  • Bepeben;
  • Bisolvon;
  • Brondilat;
  • Ceclor;
  • Sodium cephalothin;
  • Disodium Ceftriaxone;
  • Ceftriaxone.

Attention!

NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained on this site is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

Prognosis

In most cases of pneumonia, treatment with antibiotics is effective, especially when the diagnosis is rapid. In such cases, the remission of the disease should take place within a week or less.

However, it is necessary to emphasize how dangerous or even lethal this disease can be, especially for people who belong to risk groups.

Pneumonia, in general, also does not cause permanent damage to the lungs. In the case of complications, such as pleural effusion, in which conditions such as infected fluid around the lung may occur, it may be necessary to perform a surgical procedure to drain this fluid.

In these more severe cases, it may take weeks for the patient to recover.

Living together

 

During the treatment of pneumonia, the patient must take some care with his health, in order to avoid complications and contribute to the remission of symptoms. In this condition, the patient must:

Rest

While sick, the patient should prioritize his rest, avoiding activities that require exaggerated physical effort. The ideal is to leave appointments aside, especially in crowded places.

Follow medical guidelines

To avoid complications, it is essential that the patient respects the doctor’s guidelines for treatment. Medicines should only be used when prescribed.

Maintain a good diet and stay hydrated

To help with treatment, it is important that the patient seeks to maintain a healthy diet, which aims to strengthen his immune system.

Food helps to relieve symptoms and reduce the time of the flu, increases the feeling of well-being, helps the patient to restore energy and improve dehydration. Well hydrated, the body can eliminate toxins through urine.

The best options are foods that contain vitamin A, B, C, E and zinc, which are important for the production of antibodies. Onions, garlic and pepper, for example, are great decongestants.

Teas and soups, in general, also provide an increase in well-being. This is because, in addition to being able to be made with foods rich in the aforementioned vitamins , the patient while breathing the soup is breathing hot air. Even if only momentarily, it helps the patient to feel better.

Thinking about these little moments of comfort, the patient can also take advantage of the following homemade tip: in a bowl of hot water, add a chamomile tea, a few drops of propolis and / or eucalyptus and inhale the hot steam for 5 to 10 minutes, or as long as the hot air is rising. This helps to improve the feeling of nasal congestion.

It is worth mentioning that these treatments are for symptom relief and that the doctor should always be consulted.

Complications

Complications of pneumonia can vary according to the type. In the case of viral pneumonia, the patient, even with treatment, may develop more severe conditions such as hypoxemia, apnea and atelectasis .

Hypoxemia is a condition in which the body does not receive enough oxygen. It is a risk because when the brain and other vital organs run out of oxygen they are susceptible to serious sequelae.

Pneumonia patients may also suffer from apnea, a condition in which airflow to the lungs is obstructed. Many patients with apnea may also have sleep apnea . Restless sleep, snoring and poor sleep quality are characteristics of this disease.

Atelectasis, on the other hand, is a condition in which the lung, or part of it, collapses and ends up losing volume and expansive capacity.

In high-risk groups, for example, the following complications can happen:

Bacteremia

Bacteremia is a complication in which the patient has bacteria in the bloodstream. In this way, the bacteria that enter the patient’s lungs spread to other organs, which can cause them to fail due to the infection.

Difficulty breathing (dyspnoea)

If the pneumonia gets worse or if the patient has underlying chronic lung diseases, he may end up suffering more and having a harder time breathing.

In such cases, hospitalization may be necessary, so that the patient can be placed under observation and, if necessary, make use of devices to help breathing until the lung is fully healed.

Lung abscess

The abscess lung is when the patient has a pulmonary cavity with pus in the surrounding tissue is inflamed due to infection, such as pneumonia in.

The main cause of an abscess is the invasion of bacteria.

Symptoms that can occur are tiredness, night sweats, fever, weight loss and appetite and cough with sputum.

Treatment usually takes place with the use of antibiotics. In more severe cases, surgery or drainage with a needle or tube may be necessary, in which the doctor drains the cavity.

Pleural effusion

Pleural effusion occurs when pneumonia causes the formation of fluid in the space between the layers of tissue that line it and the chest cavity, the pleura.

If this fluid is also infected, it may be necessary to perform surgery to drain it, just as it does with lung abscess.

Mortality

Pneumonia is a serious condition. Some types are more than others and for some patients as well. The interruption in gas exchange prevents oxygen from properly reaching the bloodstream, which can increase carbon dioxide levels. Thus, the person ends up having difficulty breathing.

If left untreated, oxygen levels can cause the patient to be at risk of death or to suffer severe sequelae, as in cases where the heart and brain tissues do not receive enough oxygen in time.

In addition to the risk of death, the patient may have problems such as confusion, coma and heart failure.

Usually, bacterial pneumonia is more severe, but viral pneumonia can also cause serious complications and put the patient at risk for life.

Patients with chronic diseases or a compromised immune system are most at risk for complications. Pneumonia is also a major cause of death among the elderly, accounting for 50% of all hospitalizations of people over 50 in Brazil.

How to prevent it?

When it comes to prevention, it is essential that some criteria are taken into account.

The main forms of prevention can be simple and, when they are followed correctly, considerably decrease the chances of suffering from the infection.

Some of the recommendations for preventing pneumonia include certain hygiene and health care habits:

  • Make moderate use of the air conditioner and observe the manufacturer’s instructions so that it remains in proper condition;
  • Take care with extreme temperature changes;
  • Wash your hands whenever possible, especially after going to public places (with large numbers of people);
  • Avoid direct contact with the eyes, nose or mouth when the hands are not sanitized;
  • Avoid the consumption of alcoholic beverages and cigarettes;
  • Avoid closed environments with little air circulation;
  • Keep the vaccination card up to date;
  • Eating properly, with the nutrients and vitamins necessary to keep the body healthy;
  • Sleep as long as necessary for the body to be able to rest and fight possible infectious agents;
  • Exercise regularly.

In addition to all these precautions, it is also important that people receive the flu vaccine annually , considering that the flu can develop into pneumonia.

Vaccine

Although the vaccine cannot prevent all types of the disease, this is one of the best ways to prevent some cases of pneumonia. Data from the Ministry of Health state that mass vaccination drastically reduces cases of the disease.

For this reason, it is essential that risk groups, such as pregnant women, the elderly, health professionals and individuals with chronic diseases be vaccinated annually.

Currently, there are two types of vaccine against pneumococcal pneumonia (caused by pneumococcal bacteria), which are the polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccine and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, in 1977, became the first licensed pneumococcal vaccine with purified pneumococcal capsule polysaccharide components.

Due to factors such as its low efficacy, a short-lasting protective effect, as it is not applicable in breastfeeding women and because it does not promote immune memory, for example, this vaccine is no longer used as a routine preventive resource against pneumococcal disease.

Currently, this type of vaccine is used for populations at risk, such as children over 2 years of age and in the elderly population.

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, licensed in 2000, is a more advanced version. This is a conjugate vaccine with an associated polysaccharide immune component.

This type of vaccine allows the induction of an immune response regardless of the presence of T lymphocytes, fundamental cells in the immune response against pathogens.

Thus, the vaccine is able to induce an immune response even in children under 2 years of age, and can generate immune memory and contribute to reducing the condition of the carrier.

The pneumococcal vaccine should be a priority in some groups, they are:

  • People with compromised immunity or with chronic diseases (cardiovascular, pulmonary, cirrhosis, diabetes mellitus, alcoholism, absence of spleen after congenital surgery, chronic renal failure, cancer, etc.);
  • People aged 65 and over;
  • HIV virus carriers;
  • People who live or work in places with a higher risk;
  • Kids.

In 2016, Anvisa expanded the indication for the Prevenar 13 vaccine , which protects against the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). Previously, the vaccine was indicated for children and adolescents from 2 months to 17 years old and adults aged 50 years or more.

After expanding the age range of immunization, people between 18 and 49 years can also receive.

However, despite being accessible to any adult, the composition of the vaccine is especially recommended for people who suffer from some chronic disease, who can suffer serious complications from pneumonia.

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