Pneumonitis refers to lung tissue inflammation. When caused by infection, it's termed pneumonia. This condition frequently affects children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.

In severe situations, pneumonia has the potential to be life-threatening. Therefore, it is advisable for individuals who are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia to receive annual vaccinations.

Causes of Pneumonitis

Pneumonitis has two primary categories:

  1. Infectious Pneumonitis (Pneumonia): A lung infection that causes inflammation and swelling of the air sacs in the lungs. The specific type of infection can vary, and may involve viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Some examples of bacterial infections include Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenza type B, Chlamydia pneumoniae, Legionella spp., and Mycoplasma pneumoniae. On the other hand, viral infections can be caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the influenza virus.
  2. Non-Infectious Pneumonitis: Caused by inhaling irritants like smoke, dust, or chemicals. Some medications, including certain antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs, can also induce pneumonitis.

Risk Factors for Pneumonia

While anyone can develop pneumonitis, certain groups are more susceptible to pneumonia, including:

  • Young children and the elderly
  • Hospitalized individuals, particularly in ICU
  • People with chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, COPD, or heart disease
  • Immunosuppressed individuals, including those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy
  • Smokers

How Pneumonia Spreads?

Pneumonia transmission methods include:

  • Airborne transmission refers to the direct inhalation of the infection by being coughed on, sneezed on, or breathed on by an infected person. This can lead to the infection reaching the lungs.
  • Choking can also lead to infection, as saliva and food particles from the upper respiratory tract can enter the lungs. This is particularly concerning for older adults and individuals with chronic diseases.
  • Bloodstream Infection can also occur when the infection is contracted during prolonged urinary catheterization or intravenous (IV) administration.
  • Another way of getting infected is through an abscess near the lungs, such as a liver abscess.
  • Additionally, infection can be transmitted through improperly sterilised hospital test equipment, like unsterile bronchoscopes, unclean pulmonary function equipment, or contaminated nebulizers. It's also important to note that infection can spread if medical personnel do not practise proper hand washing.

Diagnosing Pneumonia

Diagnosis involves a medical history review and symptom checks (cough, fever, breathlessness). Tools include stethoscope lung examination, chest X-rays, blood tests for infection type, and sputum cultures.

Symptoms of Pneumonia

Common symptoms, regardless of cause, include:

  • Coughing up phlegm
  • Chest pain during breathing and coughing
  • Rapid or difficult breathing
  • Fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting
  • Fatigue and confusion, particularly in older adults
  • Bloating and aversion to fluids in young children

Treating Pneumonia

Treatment focuses on addressing the condition and preventing complications:

  • Antibiotics: For bacterial infections, tailored to specific bacteria.
  • Symptom-based Treatment: May include fever reducers, bronchodilators, and expectorants, along with fluid and oxygen therapy for severe cases.
  • Complication Management: Treating issues like pleural effusion or lung abscesses, with respiratory support in critical cases.

Preventing Pneumonia

Prevention strategies include:

  • Vaccinations: Influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are crucial for high-risk groups. Pneumococcal vaccines (PPV and PCV) target various strains and are recommended for different age groups.

Lifestyle Tips for Pneumonia Prevention

Reducing pneumonia risk involves:

  • Avoiding smoking and exposure to harmful smoke and pollutants
  • Maintaining good hygiene and avoiding crowded spaces
  • Prompt treatment of colds and flu
  • Strengthening the immune system through sleep, nutrition, and exercise
  • Being cautious about alcohol consumption, which can lead to aspiration pneumonia