Pneumonia – the word itself might bring to mind images of hospital stays and medical treatments, but what goes on in our bodies when we catch this common lung infection? Pneumonia is a lung infection in the basic respiratory unit where air exchange happens- the alveoli get filled with pus and fluid, leading to difficulty breathing and poor oxygen intake. The infection often progresses through four stages, each characterized by its peculiar nature and symptoms. This article will discuss the condition and its progression through these stages and remedies.
Bacteria, viruses, and fungi are the microbes responsible for causing pneumonia. They are primarily spread from person to person via the inhalation of droplets from sneezing or coughing, the typical pattern for respiratory infections. However, fungal pneumonia is spread via contact with the environment, which is more common in people with compromised immunity.
Doctors also classify the causes of pneumonia based on where the infection was gotten. These classifications include hospital-acquired, community-acquired, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and others.
Although anyone can get infected with pneumonia, specific populations are more at risk. Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death in children under five years. Parents should always seek emergency care treatment at a walk-in clinic when children show signs of a respiratory infection like cough, catarrh, fever, and irregular breaths. Older adults above 65 years are also at increased risk.
Other risk factors include reduced immunity seen in pregnancy, HIV and chemotherapy, chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart failure, lifestyle factors like alcohol, smoking, and overcrowding.
The first stage of pneumonia falls mainly into the first 24 hours after the infection. A cough with clear or green/yellow sputum, high fever and chills, chest heaviness, and chest pain with breathing often characterize it. Some people also complain of headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting accompanied by rapid breaths. Please visit our ER near you, Ascent Emergency Room, if you notice any of these symptoms. At this stage, a prompt diagnosis and corresponding early treatment are crucial.
In the next few days after infection, pneumonia worsens. This stage comes with a cough that produces thicker and more copious sputum. It may even be tinged with blood. Shortness of breath can appear here, and the lips and fingers may turn blue due to low blood oxygen levels. There’s also marked fatigue that may lead to delirium in older adults. At our emergency room in Houston, we institute antibiotic therapy at this stage if it had not been done earlier. Another peculiar feature of this stage is that complications are first seen here. The bacteria in the lungs can spread anywhere in the body, causing further infection in the brain, heart valves, joints, kidneys, spleen, and other parts.
The features seen in the third stage are either signs of improvement or a worsening condition. If the infection is caught earlier and adequately treated, the symptoms can start to resolve. Otherwise, there’s increased breathing difficulty, and older people may start coughing blood. This will come with worse complications (such as a lung abscess and bleeding into the lungs), and some people may need to be placed on oxygen at this stage.
The infection is resolved with proper treatment at the last stage of pneumonia. The microbes are killed off, and the immune cells work to clear up all signs of the infection. However, failure to treat or poor treatment will lead to far worse complications, and death is possible.
First, get vaccinated. Several vaccines protect against pneumonia in different age groups. Try to avoid smoking cigarettes and alcohol intake as they increase the risk of pneumonia. Maintaining good hygiene by washing your hands regularly with soap and water is good. Lastly, always seek emergency help for symptoms of a respiratory infection.
There are generally three stages of pneumonia:
In the early stage, symptoms may include:
During consolidation, symptoms worsen and may include:
The resolution stage involves the gradual improvement of symptoms, such as:
Yes, the symptoms can differ based on the cause of pneumonia, which may be viral, bacterial, fungal, or other pathogens. Some variations include dry cough in viral pneumonia and severe symptoms in bacterial pneumonia.
Yes, severe pneumonia may exhibit alarming symptoms like:
You should get immediate medical attention if you experience:
Pneumonia is diagnosed through a combination of:
Yes, certain measures can lower the risk of pneumonia:
Recovery times fluctuate depending on the severity of pneumonia and individual health. Generally, it may take one to three weeks for most people to recover fully under the treatment & recommendation of an emergency room. However, it can be longer for older adults or those with weakened immune systems.
Are you looking for an emergency room in Houston, TX? At Ascent Emergency Room, we care about your health and their emergency needs. We are located just a little away from you and provide exceptional and comprehensive emergency care appointments for the surrounding Houston area: