General Practice 2022

Pneumonia: what é, symptoms, types, causes and treatment

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Pneumonia: what é, symptoms, types, causes and treatment
Pneumonia: what é, symptoms, types, causes and treatment

Pneumonia is an infection of one or both lungs, which causes inflammation in the bronchioles, causing symptoms such as high fever, chills, dry cough or phlegm, shortness of breath and chest pain.

Pneumonia treatment varies according to the cause of the infection, which can be viral, bacterial, fungal or aspiration, for example, and the use of antibiotics, analgesics, nebulizations and respiratory physiotherapy is usually indicated, which should always be be prescribed by a general practitioner or pulmonologist.

In addition, some home remedies, such as assa pesca or guaco tea, can also complement the medical treatment of pneumonia, helping to strengthen the immune system and relieving cough, shortness of breath and fever.See other home remedies to relieve the symptoms of pneumonia.

Main symptoms

The main symptoms of pneumonia are:

  • Fever, which can be low and constant or high;
  • Tiredness;
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or rapid breathing;
  • Cough, which may be dry or with phlegm;
  • Headache;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Mental confusion, especially in the elderly;
  • Chest pain;
  • Weight loss;
  • Sore throat.

Pneumonia symptoms can be mild, moderate and severe, depending on the person's age and the causes of infection.

In infants and children, the main signs and symptoms of pneumonia include vomiting, fever, cough, irritation, tiredness, difficulty breathing and eating.

Types of pneumonia

Pneumonia can be classified according to its cause and/or the type of microorganism causing the infection.

The main types of pneumonia are:

1. Viral pneumonia

Viral pneumonia is an infection in the lungs caused by influenza A, B or C, H1N1, H5N5 viruses, in addition to being caused by the new coronavirus (COVID-19). This type of pneumonia can be transmitted from person to person through drops of saliva or respiratory secretions, being more common in the elderly and children.

2. Bacterial pneumonia

The bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae is the main cause of this type of pneumonia. However, other bacteria such as Klebsiella pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus can also cause this disease. Know all the causes of bacterial pneumonia.

Bacterial pneumonia is not transmissible, and is usually acquired through the worsening of a cold or flu, or through the entry of bacteria from other infections into the lungs or from the mouth, through choking on food and drink, for example.

3. Atypical pneumonia

This type of pneumonia is caused by the infection of less common microorganisms, such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Legionella pneumophila, which is transmitted from person to person through droplets of saliva. Understand more about atypical pneumonia.

4. Hospital pneumonia

Hospital pneumonia, or nosocomial, is caused by bacteria present in the hospital environment, mainly affecting people on mechanical ventilation, a procedure to facilitate breathing, which can favor the entry of bacteria naturally present in the mouth and from the nose to the lungs.

5. Aspiration pneumonia

Aspiration or inhalation of drinks, food or vomiting are the main causes of aspiration pneumonia, being more common in people with difficulty swallowing, such as babies, the elderly and people who breathe with the help of devices. Learn about other causes of this type of pneumonia.

6. Fungal pneumonia

Fungal pneumonia is not contagious, being the most common type in people with weakened immune systems, as in the case of people who undergo transplants, with cancer or HIV, for example. This type of pneumonia is caused by fungi such as Aspergillus, Candida and Coccidioides, which are present in the air, soil and bird droppings.

Main causes

Pneumonia is inflammation in one or both lungs that can be caused by infection with viruses, fungi, or bacteria present in contaminated air, soil, bird droppings, or through droplets of saliva or nasal secretions.

In addition, pneumonia can also be caused by aspiration or inhalation of food, drink, or vomiting.

How to confirm the diagnosis

The diagnosis of pneumonia should be made by a general practitioner, or pulmonologist, by evaluating the person's signs and symptoms, he alth history and auscultation of the lungs to check for noises during breathing.

In addition, the doctor may also order some additional tests, such as:

  • X-ray, to identify the location and size of inflammation;
  • Blood test, to check the type of microorganism causing the pneumonia and whether the infection is also present with blood or not;
  • Sputum test, examination that is performed by coughing deeply and expelling mucus, so that the types of microorganisms are evaluated;
  • Oximetry,which is a device placed on one of the fingers of the hand to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood.

The doctor may also request other tests, such as computed tomography, bronchoscopy and culture of the pleural fluid, a test in which a sample of the fluid that is between the lungs and chest is removed with a needle and syringe to assess the microorganism that is causing the pneumonia.

How the treatment is done

Pneumonia treatment should always be indicated by a doctor and aims to fight inflammation and improve breathing, depending on the cause and severity of the infection. The main types of treatment are:

1. Remedies

Antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, azithromycin, and penicillin, are indicated to fight bacterial and atypical pneumonia, and treatment usually lasts between 7 to 21 days. Antivirals, such as oseltamivir, peramivir or zanamivir, may be indicated for the treatment of pneumonia caused by viruses.

To treat fungal pneumonia, the main drugs indicated are antifungals, such as voriconazole, amphotericin B, caspofungin, sulfamethoxazole and fluconazole.

In addition, some pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen may also be indicated to help manage fever and pain during pneumonia.

2. Respiratory physiotherapy

Respiratory physiotherapy is a set of exercises that help to strengthen the respiratory muscles, facilitating breathing and the elimination of mucus, and can be indicated in all types of pneumonia.

3. Nebulization

Nebulization helps to moisten the airways, in addition to diluting secretions, facilitating their elimination and thus improving breathing. See how to nebulize at home.

4. Hospitalization

In more serious cases, such as in the presence of breathing difficulties, low blood pressure, mental confusion or when symptoms do not improve within 7 days of starting treatment, hospitalization may be necessary to use medication directly into the vein and the oxygen mask, or mechanical ventilator, to reduce the work of the lungs, thus facilitating recovery.

In addition, the elderly, babies under 2 months and very sleepy children, who are experiencing difficulty breathing or dehydration, may also need to be hospitalized for treatment and follow-up until symptoms improve.

Care during treatment

Other care that can complement the treatment of pneumonia, helping to strengthen the immune system and relieving the signs of the disease are:

  • Maintain a balanced diet, prioritizing the intake of foods rich in fiber and vitamins, such as fruits, legumes, whole grains, legumes and vegetables; consume lean proteins such as fish, chicken and eggs; and avoid foods high in sugar and fat. See how to make a balanced diet;
  • Have a good night's sleep, sleeping between 7 to 9 hours a night, to strengthen the immune system, thus helping to fight the microorganisms responsible for pneumonia;
  • Maintain good hydration, drinking good amounts of water, coconut water and natural juices, which help thin mucus, helping to improve breathing.

In addition, some teas, such as guaco, eucalyptus and assa-peixe, have anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator and expectorant properties, helping to relieve cough, fever and chest pain, and may be indicated to complement the treatment of pneumonia.

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