Pneumonia is a respiratory infection that affects the lungs. It is a contagious condition that can easily spread from one person to another through contact with objects, items or surfaces that are contaminated by the virus or bacteria that causes pneumonia. According to a report by WHO, pneumonia accounts for 15% of all deaths of children under 5 years old, killing 808, 694 children in 2017. Globally, it is known to be the single largest infectious cause of death in children.

What Causes Pneumonia

There are numerous types of infectious agents that can cause pneumonia. Some of them include; viruses {influenza (flu), respiratory syncytial virus, rhinoviruses (common cold)}, bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae) and fungi (Neumocystis jirovecii and Cryptococcus species).

Types of Pneumonia

Typically, Pneumonia can be classified according to how and where it is contracted. Examples of these include:

Hospital Acquired Pneumonia (HAP): As the name implies, this usually is a type of bacterial pneumonia that is often contracted during one’s stay in a hospital. Compared to other types of pneumonia, HAP are sometimes more severe as the bacteria that will be at play may be more resistant to antibiotics. Ventilated patients usually are at a higher risk of acquiring this type of Pneumonia.

Community Acquired Pneumonia (CAP): This is the most common type of pneumonia which occurs outside of hospital buildings and healthcare facilities.

Aspiration Pneumonia: This occurs when you breathe in bacterial into your lungs from food, saliva, drinks etc. The risk of having this type of Pneumonia is more likely in people that have swallowing or breathing challenges.

Symptoms of Pneumonia

Depending on the severity of the case, the signs and symptoms of pneumonia often vary and is due to factors such as age, individual health’s status and germs causing the infection. Common symptoms include:

  1. Tiredness
  2. Truncation of breath or difficulty breathing.
  3. Changes in mental awareness.
  4. Diarrhea and vomiting
  5. Joint and muscle pain.
  6. Changes in heartbeat (rapid)
  7. Loss of appetite.

Risk Factors of Pneumonia 

  1. People with history of or currently managing chronic medical conditions such as heart disease and asthma are at a high risk of acquiring pneumonia.
  2. Weakened immune systems resulting from managing terminal diseases (HIV), organ transplant and people who receive chemotherapy.
  3. Preterm babies aged 0 to 2 years.  
  4. Adults aged 65 years and above.
  5. Ventilated patients
  6. Smokers and individuals that use certain types of drugs or drink lots of alcohol.

How Do I Prevent Pneumonia

Thankfully in most cases, pneumonia can be prevented. Some of the simple effective ways to prevent pneumonia include:

  1. Vaccination: Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent pneumonia. There are available vaccines that when taken prevents certain types of pneumonia and the flu. Thus vaccinate yourself and your children as well.
  2. Maintain a good hygiene: One way to protect yourself against respiratory infections that can cause pneumonia is by practicing good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently and properly. Also consider using hand sanitizers, preferably the ones that are alcohol based. 
  3. Avoid and/or quit smoking.
  4. Be deliberate about keeping your immune system healthy by exercising, getting enough sleep/rest and/or eating healthily.