Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs (alveoli) in one or both lungs caused by either bacteria, viruses or fungi.
Food particles and irritants from the intestinal tract can also cause pneumonia. This is called aspiration pneumonia and can occur when a person accidentally inhales these substances.
With pneumonia, the air sacs may fill with fluid or pus. The infection can be life-threatening to anyone, but particularly to infants, children, people aged over 65 and people with health problems or weakened immune systems.
It is spread via person to person by contact with an infected person’s mouth or through small droplets that become airborne from coughing or sneezing.
However, fungal pneumonia is not contagious from person to person as it passes from the environment to a person. The fungi that causes this type of pneumonia is usually found in the soil.
Symptoms of pneumonia
- Coughing which may produce greenish, yellow or even bloody mucus
- Fever, sweating and shaking chills
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Sharp or stabbing chest pain that gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough
- Loss of appetite, low energy, and fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting, especially in small children
A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of getting pneumonia.
Although pneumonia can affect anyone, children under 2 years and people aged 65 and above are at a higher risk.
Other risk factors include:
1. Being hospitalized
Your chances of getting pneumonia are higher if you are in a hospital intensive care unit, especially if you are on a machine that helps you breathe (a ventilator).
2. Chronic disease
You are more likely to get pneumonia if you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart disease.
Smoking damages your body’s natural defenses against the bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia.
4. Weakened or suppressed immune system
People who have HIV/AIDS, who’ve had an organ transplant (including kidney, liver or heart), or who receive chemotherapy or long-term steroids are at risk.
Excessive consumption of alcohol also weakens your immune system.
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