Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, caused either by a bacteria or a virus. The commonest bacteria is a germ called the pneumococcus, but the disease can also be caused by other bacteria such as the streptococcus, the staphylococcus, Klebsiella, and others. One of the most common viruses to affect the lungs is the influenza virus.
Pneumonia used to be much more common and serious than it is now. Today, people don’t get pneumonia as often because they take better care of themselves when they have a cold or sore throat or grippe or bronchitis or influenza. Also, the antibiotic medications kill many of the germs that cause pneumonia, and if a patient is given antibiotics when he has bronchitis or influenza, or some other infection of the nose or air passages, he is less likely to develop a lung infection such as pneumonia.
Some types of pneumonia come on suddenly with a high fever, a chill, a cough, and a pain in the chest. In many cases, the patient has had a cold or other infection for a few days before the symptoms of the pneumonia begin. Within a few hours after the onset of pneumonia, the patient begins to breathe more rapidly and may feel short of breath. Next, he may begin to cough up mucus that is pink-colored or contains little streaks of blood. Usually, someone with pneumonia loses his appetite and may vomit if he attempts to eat too much.
When a doctor examines the chest of a patient with pneumonia, he will hear abnormal sounds through his stethoscope. And, if he X-rays the patient’s lungs, he will see an abnormal shadow in the infected part of the lung where the pneumonia is located. And, finally, when a blood count is taken, it will show an abnormally high white blood cell count.
Many different kinds of bacteria, and viruses too, can cause pneumonia. The bacteria shown in this picture are called pneumococci, and they produce a very common type of pneumonia. This type of pneumonia can be cured with antibiotic medications.
One effect of pneumonia is that the lungs - become congested with fluid, which the doctor can detect by listening o a child’s chest with stethoscope. Most cases of pneumonia can be cured by the giving of antibiotic medications
Here are some of the things that are done in treating pneumonia:
1. Rest in bed. Often, the patient is more comfortable sitting up, rather than lying down flat.
2. Large amounts of fluids are taken, including water, fruit juices, and eve soda.
3. Antibiotic medicines are given. The particular antibiotic that is will depend upon which germ is causing the pneumonia and how sensitive the germ is to the particular antibiotic drug. Although pneumonias caused by a virus are not cured by giving antibiotics, the antibiotics are given anyway. This is done so that bacteria (which can be killed by the antibiotics) do not attack the lungs that have already been weakened by the virus infection.
4. Oxygen is sometimes given if the patient is very short of breath.
5. If coughing is severe and is interfering with rest and sleep, a cough medicine is given.
6. If the patient is constipated, as frequently happens in cases of pneumonia, a laxative or an enema is given.
Children usually get over a pneumonia caused by bacteria within a week or two. Pneumonia caused by a virus may take several weeks before it completely clears up. However, no matter what kind of pneumonia the patient has had, it will usually take several weeks or even a couple of months before all his or her strength and pep are regained. Children are sometimes anemic after pneumonia, and they may require iron and vitamin pills to help them to feel as strong and energetic as they did before the attack of pneumonia. And, of course, during the period of recovery, children should take it easy and not do strenuous exercise. Also, they should be sure to get plenty of sleep each night.