What are the early signs of pneumonia?

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Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. Pneumonia is broadly classified into three. There is community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP), and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). Community-acquired pneumonia when a patient got a lung infection from outside the hospital. Hospital-acquired pneumonia is when the lung infection is due to hospitalization. When a patient who is on a ventilator suddenly suffers from pneumonia, it is called ventilator-associated pneumonia. The early signs and symptoms of pneumonia are fever and productive cough. A productive cough is referring to cough with sputum or phlegm production. Treatment for pneumonia in adults is different from child especially on the antibiotics dosing. So, do not self-treat and do not treat your children on your own without referring to a doctor.

Community-acquired pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death in the world. Around 4.5 million hospital visits are reported annually in the United States of America. Community-acquired pneumonia is ranked second for the causes of hospitalization and ranked first for the cause of death due to infections. It is estimated that around 650 per 100,000 Americans are hospitalized due to community-acquired pneumonia annually. 9 out of 100 hospitalized community-acquired pneumonia patients will be rehospitalized in the same year due to the same reason.

  The risk factors for community-acquired pneumonia:

  • Old age
  • Patients with underlying chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Individuals with underlying bronchiectasis
  • Patients with underlying heart disease
  • Patients with underlying asthma
  • Malnourished individuals
  • Individuals with underlying diabetes
  • Patients who are suffering from an underlying stroke
  • Viral respiratory tract infections
  • Patients who develop a seizure
  • Patients who are suffering from a stroke attack
  • Drugs intoxication individuals
  • Alcohol intoxication individuals
  • Patients who are on anaesthesia
  • Individuals with swallowing difficulties
  • Smoking
  • Those who live in a crowded area
  • Low socioeconomic people
  • Excessive exposure to paints, petroleum, or solvents

  The following are bacteria that cause community-acquired pneumonia:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Moraxella catarrhalis
  • Haemophilus influenzae
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Group A streptococci
  • Escherichia colli
  • Klebsiella species
  • Legionella species
  • Chlamydia pneumoniae
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae

  The viruses that will cause community-acquired pneumonia are:

  • Influenza A virus
  • Influenza B virus
  • Rhinovirus
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Respiratory syncytial virus
  • Adenovirus
  • Coronavirus

Pneumonia is transmitted via respiratory droplets. So, close contact with pneumonia patients will put you at risk of becoming infected. The clinical features are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Rapid breathing
  • Noisy breathing
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Malaise
  • Chills
  • Rapid heartbeat

Establishing the correct diagnosis is very important. The right diagnosis will secure an accurate treatment. On the other hand, misdiagnosis will result in treatment failure and patients will fail to heal. So, please help doctors by giving true information during history taking. History taking and physical examination aimed at analyzing signs and symptoms. Investigations will later carry out to accumulate enough evidence in confirming a diagnosis of pneumonia.

  The investigations are:

  • Blood studies
  • Sputum analysis
  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan of the chest if required

If you are above 65 years old or someone in your family is older than 65 years of age, hospitalization is mandatory when any of you develop pneumonia. The treatments for pneumonia are:

  • Oral antibiotics (if you are not hospitalized)
  • Intravenous antibiotics (if you are hospitalized)
  • Other adjunct treatments like corticosteroids

  The examples of antibiotics are:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Azithromycin
  • Clarithromycin
  • Doxycycline
  • Other suitable antibiotics depending on the causative organism

Antibiotics can be given as a combination or as a single regimen. Do not worry as the doctor will discuss further with you about this disease and the treatment options to heal you. Treatment for pneumonia in adults is available in most healthcare facilities.