Pneumonia, or inflammation of the lungs can either be acute or chronic in nature. It is a general term for lung infection caused by bacteria, viruses, aspiration for infants, and chemical or physical irritants. The air sacs of an infected lung attempts to ward off the microorganism or irritant that caused the infection. To do this, lung cells produce pus that contain macro-phages, or cells that eat up the bacteria, virus, or foreign body that’s not supposed to be there. This substance impedes gas exchange and therefore a person with pneumonia experiences difficulty of breathing, or shortness of breath during the onset of infection. Since poor oxygenation is the main problem, cells that are deprived of oxygen will not function well. Pneumonia can lead to other grave complications such as organ failure, spreading of infection to other parts of the body, respiratory arrest, and it may even cause death.
As mentioned before, pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or irritants that are not supposed to be there in the lungs. Exposure to gram-positive bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumonia is the number one cause of bacterial pneumonia. Staphylococcus aureus on the other hand is an opportunistic bacterium that causes pneumonia especially after a bout with influenza for five days or more. Since the body’s immune system is weak during illness, it is susceptible to the bacteria after flu. Its cardinal sign is red-orange sputum.
Viral pneumonia on the other hand is caused by flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which is common among children and adults with chronically weak or damaged immune system. Herpes simplex virus and chicken pox can also cause the infection, especially for people with impaired immune defenses.
Aspiration pneumonia happens when a person chokes on milk, vomit or food and it is not immediately removed from the lungs. Injury or trauma to the respiratory system is also a triggering factor.
Some of the most common symptoms of the disease is fever, palpitations even when you’re at rest, body malaise, and loss of appetite. Vague pain around the breastbone is also experienced, and there’s hacking non-productive cough. If with sputum, it can be blood-tinged, pinkish, greenish, or rusty in appearance. Wheezing, difficulty of breathing, and nausea and vomiting can also happen. So watch out for these signs and symptoms. Stay healthy!