The disease is the fifth leading cause of death in Brazil and affects mainly the elderly, children and the immunocompromised
According to a DATASUS survey, pneumonia is the leading cause of hospitalization and the fifth leading cause of death in Brazil. The disease, caused by an infection in the lungs, mainly affects the elderly, children, the chronically ill and HIV positive, but anyone with a badly cured flu or immune system without defense can be targeted. One form of prevention is the vaccine, which can be obtained free of charge at health centers.
Contrary to what many people think, it is not the cold that causes pneumonia. In fact, it is contracted through an external agent such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or chemicals. This association is due to the fact that people spend more time indoors and without air circulation when it is cold.
Even those who are not part of the group most likely to develop pneumonia need to be aware of some symptoms such as:
– Dry cough with yellowish or greenish phlegm
– High fever (above 37.5 ° C)
– Body pain
– Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
– Chest or chest pain
– Nausea and vomiting
– Intense sweat
In addition to these symptoms, the elderly may also have:
– Mental confusion
– Memory loss
– Disorientation in relation to time and space.
When it comes to children, the symptoms are different. They consist of:
– Loss of appetite
– Abdominal pain
– Rapid and noisy breathing
Types and causes
Pneumonia can be contracted by several means. The main causes are: bacteria, viruses, fungi and chemicals.
Bacteria : it is the most common type. It occurs when the immune system is defenseless and lets some of the bacteria present in the body pass into the lung.
Viral pneumonia : happens when a virus is able to infiltrate the alveolar space, the last place where the breathed air reaches. It can be caused by the same flu or cold agents mainly affecting children under the age of five. It is not contagious like the flu, as the virus needs to reach a location that is difficult to access to develop pneumonia.
Fungi : it is the rarest and strongest. It affects chronic people and people with weakened immune systems, such as HIV-positive people and cancer patients, who inhale large amounts of these organisms. There is no specific type of fungus that causes the disease: it depends on the patient’s geographic location. Those present in bird droppings or soils are common.
Chemical pneumonia : some toxic substances can also contribute to the disease. Smoke, pesticides, oils or petroleum products are the main chemicals related to pneumonia that, when inhaled in excess, ignite the part of the lung that carries oxygen into the blood. This type can facilitate the entry of bacteria and progress to bacterial pneumonia. It is important to notify the doctor if you have contact with harmful substances so that the treatment is appropriate for your type of pneumonia.
Aspiration : it happens when the person inhales gastric juice, vomit or foods that end up in the lung. It is more likely in people with brain damage, problems with agglutination (difficulty in swallowing food) or excessive alcohol and drugs.
Acquired in hospitals : it is acquired in hospital admissions. They are generally more resistant to antibiotics and more serious, as people are already weakened.
Smoking : facilitates the entry of infectious agents, as it causes inflammation.
Alcohol : weakens the defense of the immune system.
Air conditioning : leaves the air dry and without circulation, with a propensity for infection of viruses and bacteria, since the air circulates indoors.
Uncured flu : in conjunction with a weakened immune system, it can enable the virus to infiltrate the lung.
Since 2010, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine has entered the Basic Child Vaccination Calendar of the Ministry of Health. It prevents several diseases and is mandatory. It is the main way to prevent bacterial pneumonia.
To prevent viral pneumonia, it is important to get flu shots, especially if you are part of the risk group.
Do not smoke, wash your hands whenever you arrive somewhere, avoid crowds and places with toxic substances, in addition to resting to cure colds and flu are also attitudes that can prevent the development of pneumonia.
The patient should see a general practitioner or pulmonologist. To facilitate diagnosis at the time of consultation, it is recommended to bring a list of symptoms and a medical history of the diseases.
The doctor will perform a physical examination listening to the lung to detect sounds that characterize pneumonia. If he suspects the disease, he may order laboratory tests, such as:
Pulse oximetry : pneumonia prevents the lung from filtering enough oxygen into the blood. This test measures the level of oxygen in the blood.
X-ray : shows the location and intensity of the infection, but does not help to determine the type.
Blood tests : to confirm the infection and detect the type present in the body.
Sputum : the fluids present in the lung are analyzed to confirm the disease. The test consists of collecting the sputum after a cough.
If the patient is over 65 years old, is hospitalized or has more severe symptoms, the doctor may still ask:
Tomography : it is done so that the doctor has clearer images of the lungs. It is common when pneumonia takes a long time to heal.
Pleural fluid culture : collecting a fluid sample with the help of a needle in the pleural area (between the ribs) to help determine the type of infection.
Antibiotics are required to treat pneumonia. However, hospitalization is recommended when: the patient is elderly, is confused, the pressure is very low, there is a decrease in renal function, needs respiratory assistance, the temperature is below normal and / or the heart rate is very low or high .
The patient should never self-medicate or stop using medications without medical advice. Even if the symptoms have disappeared or appear to have healed, it is important to take all the doses indicated by the specialist, as this is the only way to exterminate the bacteria from the body.
Patients in high-risk groups may experience some complications even with treatment.
Bacteria in the bloodstream : the bacteria in the lungs can pass into the bloodstream and reach other organs.
Difficulty breathing : if the pneumonia is very severe or the patient has chronic respiratory illnesses, there may be a lack of oxygen in the blood and difficulty breathing. In this case, hospitalization is recommended.
Pleural effusion : pneumonia can cause the fluid to get between the layers of tissue in the lung. When this happens, it is necessary to drain this water through a chest tube or with surgery.
Abscess : is a wound with pus in the lung. It can be treated with antibiotics, surgery or drainage with a tube and a long needle.