About Pneumonia

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by a bacteria type called Pneumococcus. These bacteria cause a variety of mild to severe illnesses in people of all ages. Of these, pneumonia is the most common and is the leading cause of death in children younger than 5. These infections can be prevented with vaccines and can usually be treated with antibiotics, antiviral drugs or specific drug therapies.

Reference: https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/

Who Can Get Pneumonia?

Risk factors that increase your chance of getting pneumonia include:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Recent viral respiratory infection – a cold, laryngitis, influenza, etc.
  • Difficulty swallowing due to stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or other neurological conditions
  • Chronic lung disease such as COPD, bronchiectasis, or cystic firbrosis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Other serious illnesses, such as heart disease, liver cirrhosis, or diabetes
  • Living in a nursing facility
  • Recent surgery or trauma
  • Having a weakened immune system due to illness, certain medications, and autoimmune disorders

How Does Pneumonia Affect the Body?

Most of the time, the body filters germs out of the air that we breathe. This keeps the lungs from becoming infected. But germs sometimes find a way to enter the lungs and cause infections. This is more likely to occur when:

  • Your immune system is weak.
  • A germ is very strong.
  • Your body fails to filter germs out of the air that you breathe.

When the germs that cause pneumonia reach your lungs, the lungs' air sacs (alveoli) become inflamed and fill up with fluid and pus. This causes the symptoms of pneumonia, such as a cough, fever, chills and trouble breathing.

When you have pneumonia, oxygen has trouble reaching your blood. If there is too little oxygen in your blood, your body cells can't work properly. Because of this and infection spreading through the body, pneumonia can cause death.

Pneumonia affects your lungs in two ways. Lobar pneumonia affects a section (lobe) of a lung. Bronchial pneumonia (or bronchopneumonia) affects patches throughout both lungs.

Reference: http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/pneumonia/learn-about-pneumonia.html

How Serious is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia can be very serious and can cause death. Other diseases caused by Pneumococcal bacteria can cause meningitis and may seriously affect the nervous system or cause death.

Pneumonia tends to be more serious for infants and young children, older adults (people 65 years or older), people who have other chronic health problems, and people who have weak immune systems because of diseases or other factors.

If you develop pneumonia, your chances of a fast recovery are greatest if:

  • You are young.
  • Your pneumonia is caught early.
  • Your immune system – your body’s defense against disease – are working well.
  • The infection hasn’t spread.
  • You are not suffering from other illnesses.

If you have taken antibiotics, your doctor may want to make sure your chest X-ray becomes normal again after you finish the whole prescription. It may take many weeks for your X-ray to clear up.

What Vaccines are Available to Prevent Pneumonia?

There are two vaccines currently available to prevent pneumonia:

  • Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (Prevnar 13®)
    • Usually given to children under 2 years old
    • Given to people between ages 19 and 64 who are most at risk for pneumococcal diseases, including those with:
      • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks
      • Cochlear implants
      • Missing spleen or no spleen function (asplenia)
      • Sickle cell disease
      • Kidney failure
      • HIV or other immune disorders
      • Solid organ transplant
      • Various types of cancer
    • Another dose is required after age 65
  • Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (Pneumovax 23®)
    • Given to people between ages 19 and 64 who are most at risk for pneumococcal diseases, including those with any of the conditions listed above, as well as:
      • Heart or lung diseases
      • Diabetes
      • Alcoholism
      • Liver disease
      • Smoking habit
    • Another dose is required after age 65

What are the Possible Side Effects of These Vaccines?

Most people who get a pneumococcal vaccine do not have any serious problems with it. With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own within a few days, but serious reactions are possible.

Mild Problems

Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine

Mild problems following pneumococcal conjugate vaccination can include:

  • Reactions where the shot was given
    • Redness
    • Swelling
    • Pain or tenderness
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fussiness or irritability
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache
  • Chills

Young children who get pneumococcal conjugate vaccine at the same time as an inactivated flu vaccine may be at increased risk for seizures caused by fever. Ask your doctor for more information.

Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine

Mild problems following pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccination can include:

  • Reactions where the shot was given
    • Redness
    • Pain
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches

If these problems occur, they usually go away within about two days.

Reference: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/pneumo/public/index.html

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