Overview of Pneumonia
Pneumonia is a lung infection caused due to virus, bacteria, and fungi. Bacterial pneumonia is the most common type. You can catch this infection from anywhere – from your workplace, school, or while traveling near an infected person.
Long-term diseases such as asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc can also make more prone to get a pneumonial infection.
It occurs when the tiny air chambers in our lungs called Alveoli, are filled up with liquid and become functionally impaired. Pneumonia can be a serious and fatal condition.
The disease can be treated at home but in few cases, it can be life-threatening. It is more common in infants, young children and people more than 65 years of age.
Few symptoms of pneumonia include a cough, muscle pain, fever, diarrhea, shortness of breath, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, etc. It can be treated with the help of few home remedies and in severe cases even medications.
Vaccination provides protection only from the pneumonial bacteria. It can not protect you from other types of pneumonial infectors as discussed further in the article.
- Chest pain when you breathe or coughing
- Nasal and Chest congestion with coughs
- Fever with sweating
- Muscle pain
- Fast heartbeat
- Fatigue and weakness
- Rusty or green phlegm, or sputum, coughed up from lungs
- Shortness of breath
- Shaking chills
- Confusion or changes in mental awareness (especially in patients older than 65 years of age)
- Lower than normal body temperature
Bacteria, virus, and fungi are the most common causes of pneumonia.
Bacterial – There are many bacteria’s that causes pneumonia but the most common is Streptococcus pneumonia. Few others are legionella and Chlamydophila pneumonia.
Viral – Virus such as the Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and Influenza (A and B) causes pneumonia. This pneumonia is usually mild.
Fungal – Usually it is caused by Coccidioides fungus and is most common in the people with a weaker immune system.
Hospital-acquired – It is usually acquired during a hospital stay for another illness. People on ventilators are at higher risk of this type of pneumonia.
Aspirational – When you inhale bacteria into your lungs from drink, food or saliva, this type of pneumonia occurs. It is not contagious.
Few other causes include –
- Weaker Immune system
- Exposure to irritants such as dust, chemical fumes or smoke
- If you have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- Living in area with lots of pollution
- Suffering from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, bronchitis, diabetes, etc
- Eat balanced and healthy diet to keep your body as healthy as possible.
- Avoid cigarette smoking as it may increase your risk of pneumonia.
- Getting vaccinated will protect you against the virus that causes pneumonia. It will also protect you against flu and bronchitis.
- Make sure you get enough sleep.
- Exercise regularly and keep your immune system strong.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes if you’re around people with pneumonia.
- Avoid sharing glasses/utensils.
- Wash your hands regularly, particularly during the cold season.
- Limit your exposure to air irritants such as chemical fumes, dust, and other pollutants.
- Wash your hands frequently as it will reduce your risk of catching a viral infection.
- Wear a surgical mask as it will help you if you’re exposed to dust or fumes.
- Avoiding long exposure to air pollution may help prevent pneumonia.
- Stay away from individuals suffering from cold or flu.
- Wash the hands frequently to prevent the spread of infection.
Turmeric has one of the best natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties which are helpful in treating cough associated with pneumonia, relieves congestion and fights infections.
- Mix 1 tsp of turmeric in a glass of milk, boil it and drink it twice or thrice daily, for better results.
- Add 1 tsp of turmeric to a glass of boiling water. Let it boil for few minutes, strain it and add a pinch of black pepper powder. Drink it once daily for few days.
- You can also add turmeric powder with warm mustard oil, make a paste and rub it on your chest for relief.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibacterial properties which help to relieve pneumonia. It also strengthens the immune system and is very helpful in treating the common cold. You can use it either fresh or dried.
- Ginger tea is very helpful in treating pneumonia. Add a small piece of ginger to a cup of boiling water; let it boil for 2-3 minutes. Then add jaggery and black pepper powder in it and drink it for few days.
- Another way is to add 2 tsp of fresh ginger juice, 2 tsp of honey and 1 tsp of lemon juice to a glass of water. Drink it once a day to ease congestion.
Honey has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It helps to deal with a cough which occurs with pneumonia. It also boosts your immune system. Honey and lemon together are very soothing to the throat and also relieves congestion.
- Mix 1 tsp of honey, a pinch of ginger powder and black pepper powder to a glass of lukewarm water. Drink it daily for few days.
- For better results, add 1 tsp of honey to your regular cup of tea and drink it daily.
- Mix 1 tsp of honey to a cup of warm water and drink it once or twice daily. This will help to treat throat inflammation and congestion.
Sesame seeds act as a natural expectorant. It contains magnesium which helps to relieve the airway spasm that usually occurs during pneumonia as well as eases the chest pain.
- Add 1 tsp of sesame seeds and flax seeds each to a cup of boiling water. Let it boil for few minutes, strain it. Add a pinch of salt and 1 tsp of honey in it. Drink it once daily for few days.
Usually, people suffering from pneumonia are suggested to drink lots of water, take rest, etc. The patient needs proper medical care but in most of the cases it goes away on its own but tiredness can persist for a month or more. If you are suffering from the symptoms, try these treatments such as:
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks during medications
- Eat balanced and healthy diet
- Quit smoking
- Try avoiding exposure to environmental smoke
- Get plenty of rest, etc.
Drinking lots of water will help to thin out the mucus, moist the throat, avoid dehydration and will loosen nasal mucus; which is very relieving. Doctors usually advise their patients with respiratory infections to increase their fluid intake. Foods such as ginger, garlic, honey, lemon, sesame seeds, etc are the natural treatment for pneumonia.
Medical treatment actually depends on its type, causes, and symptoms. Different medications are available for the treatment. Medications include pain relievers, antibiotics, fever reducers and cough medicines.
Depending upon the cause; antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal medicines are used for the treatment. Bacterial pneumonia is usually treated with the help of antibiotics. Fungal pneumonia is usually treated with antifungal medications. Viral pneumonia is usually treated with antiviral medications and can be treated with plenty of fluids and rest.
In some cases, doctors may recommend over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to treat few symptoms such as reducing pain, reducing fever, suppressing cough, etc. It includes medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others)
Pneumonia is an infectious condition. If you seem to notice any symptoms, seek medical help soon. The home remedies written above may help you in reducing some symptoms, but they are not the sure shot treatment.
A doctor will diagnose you to identify the root cause of infection. The treatment will depend upon the type of pneumonial microbe caused the infection.
When should I see a Doctor?
Consult a doctor if you notice:
- Difficulty breathing
- A persistent cough
- Chest pain
- High fever
Any of these symptoms seen in children younger than 2 years of age or adults older than 65 years of age, should consult your doctor immediately.
Is Pneumonia contagious?
Yes. In cases of bacterial, viral, and fungal pneumonia, it can be contagious. Such patients should be kept in isolation.