Pneumonia—What are the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment?

Pneumonia—What are the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment?

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an inflammatory infection affecting tissues in one or both lungs, and it fills the lung air sacs with pus-like fluid. This decreases blood flow and oxygen levels in the body triggering health conditions like kidney failure, low blood pressure, and sometimes death.

Categories of Pneumonia

Pneumonia is categorized based on the cause; bacteria, virus, fungus, or the environment.

1. Type by illness-causes agent

  • Bacterial Pneumonia

Streptococcus pneumoniae is a common cause for bacterial pneumonia, and it can occur on its own or due to a cold or flu. The infection may affect a small section of the lung or the entire lung (lobar pneumonia).

The severity of bacterial pneumonia depends on the strength of the bacteria, age, overall health, and how quickly the disease is diagnosed.

  • Fungal Pneumonia

Fungal pneumonia mostly affects seniors with chronic conditions, and it can either be endemic or opportunistic.

  • Viral Pneumonia

Viral pneumonia is caused by respiratory viruses like flu or a common cold. The infection can be mild, but without proper management, it can worsen and cause other health complications.

  • Mycoplasma is also another cause of pneumonia, and it affects toddlers and young adults.

2. Type by the Location

The pneumonia-causing organisms are spread from person to person, but certain settings like the environment can increase the risk.

  • Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP)

Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenza are the causes of community-acquired pneumonia. CAP symptoms include fever, cough, chest pain, and dyspnea.

  • Hospital-acquired pneumonia

HAP, also called nosocomial pneumonia, refers to pneumonia contracted in a hospital, and it develops at least 48 to 72 hours after admission. HAP is usually caused by bacteria, and it is a common cause of death in patients admitted to the Intensive Care Units. The first symptom is mental changes and confusion, but you can also notice coughs with pus, fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.

  • Healthcare-associated pneumonia

Healthcare-associated pneumonia usually occurs in non-hospitalized seniors who reside in nursing homes, kidney dialysis centers, or long-term care facilities. HCAP is commonly caused by Staphylococcus aureus.

Other Types

Other types of pneumonia that don’t fall in any of these categories include;

  • Bronchial pneumonia that affects the bronchi and both lungs, and it is caused by Streptococcus pneumonia, Staphylococcus aureus, or Haemophilus influenza. Common symptoms include chest pain, rapid breathing, headaches, and muscle aches.
  • Bilateral or double pneumonia affects affect both lungs and is common in seniors who have difficulty swallowing, alcoholics, and drug users.
  • Legionella bacteria cause Legionnaires’ disease, which is more prevalent in older adults who smoke and have compromised immunity.
  • Pneumococcal pneumonia is common in children under five years and seniors. The infection usually affects the upper respiratory tract, but can spread to the lungs, ears, blood, and nervous system if not treated immediately.

Pneumonia Symptoms

Often, pneumonia symptoms mimic those of flu or cold, and they vary from one person to another. These pneumonia signs can manifest suddenly or slowly, and they include:

  • Fever
  • A cough that may have mucus
  • Shortness of breath after a strenuous activity
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Stabbing chest pain when you inhale


Even with pneumonia treatment, some seniors may develop complications that are fatal. So, visit an emergency room near you when you notice complications such as;

  • Bacteremia occurs when the bacteria enter the bloodstream and spread to other organs like the kidneys leading to organ failure.
  • Severe pneumonia can cause lung diseases due to a low oxygen supply.
  • Pleural effusion is the fluid accumulation around the lung lining and chest cavity. At times, the fluid can become infected, and surgery will be required to remove the mucus.
  • Lung abscess affects the lung cavity and is usually treated with antibiotics.

Treatment Options and remedies

Pneumonia treatment involves treating the infection and preventing further complications. The treatment used will depend on the type of pneumonia and the severity of the disease.

  • Medication

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infection. But you may also use cough medicine, which helps to loosen mucus in your lungs, fever, and pain relievers that eliminate discomfort.

  • Get plenty of rest

Even with treatment, pneumonia can still reoccur, that’s why it is recommended you take bed rest until you are fully recovered. Sleep not only reduces stress but triggers the body’s natural healing process and boosts immunity.

  • Stay hydrated

Water helps to clean viruses, germs in your immune system and lightens the mucus in your lungs.
Also, try peppermint tea– a decongestant, painkillers, and anti-inflammatory, which helps to expel mucus and alleviate irritation.

  • Keep the Environment Clean

Germs exist in our environment, and keeping your home clean can reduce the risk of pneumonia. Therefore, clean the floor and surfaces with a disinfectant and use the home air purifiers to keep the air clean.

Pneumonia Prevention

Pneumonia prevention, especially among the elderly, is crucial. There are different ways you can prevent lung infections:

  • Vaccination. Try to get a flu shot every year to prevent influenza.
  • Keep the environment clean. Clean and disinfect the floors and surfaces to destroy microorganisms
  • Wear a medical mask especially when you are in a hospital setting
  • Practice good hygiene like washing hands frequently
  • Keep your immune strong through sleep, diet, and exercise
  • Avoid smoking

Living with Pneumonia

Pneumonia is curable, but without proper treatment and preventive measures, the infection can reoccur and eventually develop into drug-resistant pneumonia. Proper hygiene practices, exercise, and diet can go a long way in preventing pneumonia. Also, get an influenza flu shot every year because influenza increases the risk of developing a lung infection.

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