Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be caused by bacteria, a virus or fungi. It is characterized by the air sacs in the lungs becoming inflamed and filling up with fluid or pus. Pneumonia can vary in severity from very mild to life threatening and it is most serious in infants, young children, people who are older than 65 and people who have weakened immune systems. There are two ways it can affect the lungs: Lobar pneumonia is when only one lobe is affected and bronchial pneumonia is when both lungs are affected.
Since pneumonia affects the lungs, it can severely limit the ability of oxygen to reach the blood stream, affecting other organs’ ability to function properly.
Signs and symptoms of pneumonia include:
• Difficulty breathing that causes chest pain
• Cough with phlegm
• Fever, chills, sweating
• Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
• Rapid heartbeat
Risk factors for pneumonia include:
• Cigarette smoking
• Chronic lung disease (COPD, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis)
• Cerebral Palsy
• After surgery
There are a few ways to proactively prevent pneumonia. Anyone can develop pneumonia but those who are at high risk can ask their physician about getting a pneumonia vaccine. Practicing good hygiene and washing your hands frequently with soap and water and also using a hand sanitizer can be useful. It is also important to keep the body healthy by getting enough rest, proper nutrition, and exercise.
Pneumonia is diagnosed through a physical exam which will include listening to the lungs with a stethoscope and also may include a chest x-ray. Additional testing may include a blood test to check the white blood cell count, a sputum test, pulse oximetry or a bronchoscopy.
The treatment of simple pneumonia depends on the agent that is causing it. Many cases can be treated with antibiotics, cough medicine and fever reducer/pain reliever. More complex cases may require hospitalization and IV antibiotics. If you are having difficulty breathing it is important to get checked by a physician to diagnose the reason why. To schedule an appointment with a physician at Flushing Hospital, please call 718-670-5486.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.