Pneumonia, caused by a virus, fungi or bacteria, is a lung infection that is easily spread from person to person with a simple sneeze, touch or a cough. Individuals who do not realize that they are already carrying the start of this illness can still spread it to others. While many are able to recover completely from pneumonia symptoms that last from 1 – 3 weeks, the infection can be fatal to the elderly, or to those who have compromised immune systems.
Viral vs. Bacterial
Education is imperative when it comes to slowing or stopping the spread of this infection. It is important for individuals to understand that 1/3 of Pneumonia cases are caused by having a virus such as the flu, a cold or RSV. By helping your patients to understand that a case of Pneumonia may be viral, physicians will then be able to explain that treating with antibiotics will have little to no effect on their healing process.
By administering a sputum test or taking a fluid sample from the space between the lungs and the tissue that covers them, a physician should be able to test and determine if the pneumonia is bacterial or viral. Once this is known, a proper treatment plan can be put into place.
Early Symptoms and Signs
Symptoms of Pneumonia tend to worsen as the infection continues to grow. At times, it can be difficult for patients to decide if they are just run down, or if they need to be seen by a medical professional. In such mild cases, sometimes referred to as walking pneumonia, patients may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- AA low fever
- Marked loss of appetite
- Dry cough that worsens at night
- Shortness of breath
- Worsening chest pain with a cough or deep breath.
Advising patients to be seen early during cold and flu season may not only help them recover more quickly, it may also inhibit the spread of the infection.
In cases where Pneumonia has not been caught early on, patients may experience more advanced symptoms including:
- A blue tinge to the lips
- Green or yellow mucus produced by a cough
- Increasing fever temperature
- Muscle pain and weakness
Patients experiencing these advanced symptoms may require admittance to the hospital while they are treated, depending on the severity and progression of their Pneumonia.
Those at Highest Risk
When patients know and understand the risk factors that contribute to more severe Pneumonia, they may be more willing to come in to be checked. Those at higher risk include the elderly, those living in an assisted living location, children who are under the age of 2 and women who are pregnant. Additionally, individuals who suffer from a chronic illness, have lung damage from smoking or have recently undergone chemotherapy treatments are at a higher risk for catching this illness.
Possible Complications from Pneumonia
Even with early medical treatment, there are some patients who may experience additional complications when exposed to this illness. One such complication is Bacteremia, or bacteria in the bloodstream which can lead to other organs being infected. Severe cases may result in organ failure. Another complication, pleural effusion, causes fluid to accumulate between the layers of tissue which cover the lungs and the cavity of the chest. If this buildup of fluid gets infected, then it would need to be drained. If pus forms in the lung cavity due to Pneumonia, and does not respond to antibiotics, then the patient may need to undergo surgery in order to have a drainage tube placed.
Prevention, of course, is the best treatment available for an easily spread infection such as Pneumonia. A yearly flu shot is the most highly recommended form of prevention. In addition, education about proper handwashing and methods of coughing or sneezing that can contain germs, instead of spreading them, are imperative. With each effort that is made to educate patients about prevention, there will be fewer who actually get this infection.
Quick and effective treatment plans may include antibiotics, medications which stop the flu from spreading further in your body, or those that can limit a virus from spreading. An in-house pharmacy can further help slow the spread of the illness as patients are able to avoid going to another physical location to pick up prescribed medications.