How do you get pneumonia? Most of the germs that cause infection are passed from person to person through droplets, coughing or sneezing.
People who smoke are at a higher risk for pneumonia, as are people who take immunosuppressive drugs and people who are frequently in tight and crowded spaces with others, such as students and military personnel.
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What types of pneumonia are there?
Your doctors will try to categorize your type of pneumonia to help guide your treatment.
Community acquired pneumonia (CAP)
You can also develop CAP after contracting a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu or the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.
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CAP ranges from mild to severe and, if left untreated, can lead to respiratory failure or death.
Various types of bacteria can be responsible for the disease. In most cases, the bacteria enter the lungs when inhaled and then travel into the bloodstream, potentially causing damage to other organs and systems in the body.
- Have an underlying lung disease, such as asthma or COPD
- Have a systemic disease, such as diabetes
- Have a weakened immune system
- Alcohol abuse
Depending on your condition and if you have other health problems, your doctor may treat you for suspected bacterial pneumonia with antibiotics at home or in the hospital.
There are two different pneumonia vaccines; ask your doctor if you qualify for either.
Antibiotics are ineffective against viral pneumonia. Your doctor will most likely treat the symptoms – fever, cough, and dehydration.
You or your child may need to be hospitalized if your symptoms of viral pneumonia get worse.
Hospital-acquired pneumonia usually needs to be treated in hospital with intravenous antibiotics.
It can develop after a person inhales food, drink, vomit, or saliva into their lungs. After your lungs have been irritated by inhaling food or stomach contents, a bacterial infection may develop.
A strong gag reflex or cough will usually prevent aspiration pneumonia, but you may be at risk if you have trouble swallowing or if your level of alertness decreases.
Aspiration pneumonia causes inflammation without bacterial infection. These pneumonia can sometimes be difficult to treat, especially since the patients are often sicker to begin with.
Some conditions that may put you at risk for aspiration pneumonia include:
- Loss of alertness due to medications, illness, or surgery (under anesthesia)
- Alcohol abuse
- Old age
- Poor gag reflex due to brain injury or stroke
Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia include coughing, increased sputum, fever, confusion, and shortness of breath.
You can avoid complications by not eating or drinking before surgery, working with a therapist to learn how to swallow without sucking, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption.
Finally, Pneumocystis pneumonia is an extremely rare fungal pneumonia in healthy people, according to the CDC, but which develops in people with weakened immune systems; it is often referred to as an opportunistic infection.