UNDERSTANDING PNEUMONIA IN DUBAI
- What is Pneumonia
Pneumonia is inflammation of the lung tissue (composed by the smallest airways and their termination called alveoli). When the airways are also involved, it is called bronchopneumonia.
Pneumonia can be in one area of a lung or be in several areas. Many things can cause a pneumonia (lung inflammation) though most often they are infections. Often, patients who are diagnosed with pneumonia are treated by a specialist in lung care at our pulmonology clinic in Dubai.
- What causes pneumonia?
Pneumonia is typically caused by a virus or bacteria your lower airways have been exposed to. They can originate from your upper airways (nose and mouth) which are not sterile through micro-aspirations, or they can originate from the environment (water, soil, and air). It can also be passed to you from another person.
Infection can be passed between people from direct contact (usually the hands) or inhaling droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing. Viruses like SARS-CoV-2 (that causes COVID-19) and influenza viruses can cause severe pneumonia. Sometimes a person who has a viral infection, such as influenza virus, will also develop a secondary infection from bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pneumoniae while they are sick.
Pneumonia more rarely can be caused by a parasite or fungus. Aspiration pneumonia is caused by a foreign material, usually food or vomit getting into the lungs from the throat, which irritates the airways and lung tissue and increases chances of a bacterial infection.
- Who gets pneumonia?
Pneumonia can happen at any age. However, it is more common in elderly people and young children. Some people are at higher risk of pneumonia because they have pre-existing lung diseases, poor nutrition, difficulty swallowing, other chronic health problems or problems with their immune system.
People who smoke and people who are around tobacco smoke are at higher risk of developing pneumonia. People who have not had the yearly influenza vaccine or who have not been immunized for Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria (Prevnar 13® and/or Pneumovax 23® pneumococcal vaccines) are also at higher risk for lung infections.
- What are the signs and symptoms of pneumonia?
People with pneumonia often have a cough, fever or chills, difficulty breathing, low energy and poor appetite. Sometimes a person will have nausea, diarrhoea, and/or chest pain. It is possible to have pneumonia without a cough or fever. Symptoms may come on quickly or may worsen slowly over time. Sometimes a person who has a viral upper respiratory infection (cold) will get a new fever and worsening that signals the start of the secondary bacterial infection.
- How is pneumonia diagnosed?
When you present symptoms suggestive of pneumonia or medical exam reveal reduced or abnormal breath sounds in the lungs, a chest x-ray is performed to demonstrate areas of pneumonia. Sometimes a more detailed computerized x-ray called a CT scan is done.
Blood tests are requested to look at your inflammation and evaluate potential risk / severity of the pneumonia. Cultures and tests may be done of sputum (also called phlegm or mucus) to see if a bacteria can be found or through a nasal swab PCR test similar to the one you do when testing for Covid infection to see viruses and other atypical bacteria. People at high risk are admitted in the hospital.
Sometimes it can be hard to know what type of infection (for example what bacteria) is causing the pneumonia. This can be because the tests are not perfect, and/or you may have received some treatment before the tests were done. However, your healthcare provider will help you decide on a plan of treatment based on what is the most likely cause based from the information he or she has about you, what types of infection are being seen in your community, and what types of infection you might be at more risk for if you have a pre-existing health problem. Finally, in specific situations, a sample of mucus may be taken from the lung through the airways using a procedure called flexible bronchoscopy.
- How serious is pneumonia?
If you’ve been diagnosed with pneumonia, you should take it seriously and take care of yourself. Most people with pneumonia recover with antibiotics and rest. However, about 1 in 5 adults with pneumonia need to be in the hospital, and people with severe infection may require intensive care unit (ICU) and life support measures. Severe pneumonia can lead to death, especially for the elderly, young children, or people with other medical problems.
Pneumonia is often a short-term illness but sometimes it can last longer, or get worse before it gets better. Most of the time, however, people experience a full recovery. Usually, no permanent scarring or damage to the lungs results. if you do not have another lung or immune problem. However, there is always some risk of lung damage from a serious infection. Your healthcare provider can talk with you about what to expect for recovery and whether you will need any follow-up x-rays or lung function tests.
- Call your healthcare provider if:
- Your cough is severe or getting worse.
- Your fever is not going away.
- You have trouble breathing.
- You have trouble taking your medications or concerned about possible side effects. Do not stop your medicine without contacting your healthcare provider.
- You do not feel better or still have a fever 3 days after starting antibiotics.
- What can I do to avoid getting a pneumonia?
- Stop smoking and vaping. Avoid being around tobacco smoke.
- Get yearly influenza virus vaccine.
- Get Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcal) vaccine.
- Basic protections including wearing masks, physical distancing and avoiding large crowds can reduce your risk and others from COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses.
- Wash hands at all times especially when meeting someone with a cold or lung infection.
- Improve oral hygiene to reduce risk of aspiration pneumonia.
- Lead a healthy lifestyle with good diet and exercise.