Lung infection: what it is, main causes and types

Lung infection, also called low respiratory infection, happens when some type of fungus, virus or bacteria can multiply in the lungs, causing inflammation and leading to the appearance of some symptoms such as fever, cough, phlegm and difficulty breathing, for example. Depending on the site affected in the lung and the symptoms, lung infection can be divided into several types, the most common of which are pneumonia, bronchitis and bronchiolitis.

Whenever a lung infection is suspected, it is very important to consult a pulmonologist, general practitioner, pediatrician or go to a health center or emergency room to confirm the diagnosis and initiate the most appropriate treatment, which may include the use antibiotics, hospital stay or just rest. Check out the most common signs of a lung infection .

Causes of pulmonary infection

Lung infection can be caused by fungi, viruses and bacteria that can enter the body through the inhalation of respiratory droplets that are released during coughing, sneezing or speaking from people who are infected with these microorganisms.

Fungi are naturally found suspended in the air and are normally aspirated into the body, however they rarely lead to the appearance of signs and symptoms and the development of disease, since they can be easily combated by the body itself. However, when the immune system is weakened due to illness or the use of medications, respiratory diseases caused by fungi may develop.

Lung infections happen more frequently due to bacteria, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae and Bordetella pertussis , and some types of viruses, and it is important to identify the cause for proper treatment.

Main types of lung infection

There are 3 main types of lung infection, which can have different causes:

1. Pneumonia

Pneumonia happens when there is an inflammation of the lung parenchyma, which is the wall of the lung responsible for exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. The most common causes of this type of infection are bacteria like Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, as well as viruses, such as influenza.

When pneumonia develops, the most classic symptoms are fever above 38ºC, rapid breathing, coughing, chest pain and greenish or bloody phlegm. Learn more about pneumonia and how to treat it .

2. Bronchitis

Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchi, which are the channels that receive air in the lungs. The most common cause for this type of infection is the flu virus, but it can also happen due to infection by bacteria such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae , Chlamydia pneumoniae or Bordetella pertussis.

In bronchitis, fever is not always present and the phlegm is whitish or yellowish. Other symptoms include noises when breathing, constant coughing and tiredness. See other symptoms of bronchitis .

3. Bronchiolitis

Bronchiolitis is more common in babies under 2 years of age, characterized by inflammation of the bronchioles, which are the narrowest channels in the respiratory system and receive air from the bronchi. The main cause of this infection is viruses, especially the respiratory syncytial virus.

Symptoms that can lead to suspected bronchiolitis include wheezing when breathing, rapid breathing, opening the nose when breathing and increased irritability and tiredness. Check out how to identify and treat bronchiolitis .

How to confirm the diagnosis

To confirm the diagnosis of pulmonary infection, it is recommended to consult a pulmonologist to do the physical exam, in addition to complementary exams, such as blood and chest X-rays, for example.

After making the diagnosis, treatment begins, but it is important to identify the agent causing the infection to adopt the best treatment approach, and this can be achieved with microbiological analysis of sputum.

How the treatment is done

Treatment for pulmonary infection is done with drugs that act directly against the causative agent, such as antibiotics, antifungals or antivirals, for example. You can also use pain medication and to lower your fever.

To complement the treatment, the doctor can also indicate respiratory physiotherapy, performed with breathing exercises and small devices that allow the secretion of the lungs to be eliminated, bringing relief from symptoms. In addition, healthy eating and good hydration are also important during the recovery period and during the treatment of lung infection.

In the most severe cases, where there is no improvement after starting treatment, or when the person has an autoimmune disease that makes the immune system more fragile, you may need to be admitted to the hospital.


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