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Pneumonia is a condition that occurs when a microorganism (germ) gets to the lungs and causes an infection. Infections ma be caused by bacteria, fungi, or a virus. Pneumonia usually causes trouble breathing, a cough, chest pain and fever. The infections acquired outside the hospital are called Community-acquired pneumonia, while those acquired while in a hospital are called hospital-acquired pneumonia.

Pneumonia is a common condition that can be mild to severe. People who very susceptible to get severe infections include the elderly (above 65) and the very young.

People that fall in-between these age groups usually do very well (unless they have conditions that make them vulnerable).

When you are diagnosed to have pneumonia, the doctors usually do a number of tests and then have to decide what treatment they are going to give you and where (home versus in the hospital).

There a number of scoring systems they use to determine this. There is the Pneumonia Severity Index (PSI) and the CURB-65 score. The score you get on this determines which treatment and where you are going to get it. These scores may not be valid in some people or populations. The mild form of pneumonia is usually termed walking pneumonia -- because you can still walk around and do your normal activities.

The organism that usually causes this is called Mycoplasma pneumonia other frequently seen bacteria include:

  1. Streptococcus pneumoniae, vaccine available.
  2. Mycoplasma pneumoniae, no vaccine currently (there have been tests on a vaccine).
  3. Chlamydophila pneumoniae, no vaccine.

Respiratory Viruses

  1. influenza, vaccine available.
  2. Parainfluenza.
  3. Respiratory syncytial virus.

Tests

Tests to expect include chest X-rays and some blood tests. Some doctors may require a follow-up X-ray in seven to 12 weeks after treatment in some people especially in the elderly. The doctors may need some phlegm if you have some to send for tests, but this is usually done with sicker people. You may be screened for influenza (if it is in season), and if found positive you will receive treatment.

Treatment

The doctor will probably prescribe you antibiotics you can take home for walking pneumonia, and if you are getting admitted you may receive antibiotics through your vein (intravenously). If the treatment is correct, then there should be an improvement in approximately two to three days.

Non-Responders (Treatment Failure)

Some people will not respond to the initial medication and will have to be admitted to the hospital. Treatment failure occurs in about six to 15 percent of persons who are treated as an outpatient for "walking pneumonia".

Infectivity

Unfortunately because pneumonias spread through the air, they can be easily transmitted, that is why they can occur in outbreaks. If you have pneumonia, avoiding elderly and young children should be paramount.

Prevention

You should get all your pneumonia vaccines and flu shots. The influenza vaccines are necessary because influenza can weaken your immunity and predispose you to pneumonias. If you have a condition or medication, that decreases your immunity such as corticosteroids for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis you should avoid all people with pneumonia because your body's defenses are slightly reduced.

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