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PNEUMONIA – ‘In the Air’

The rainy season and the wintry winds of this period especially as we get into the August Break, some people argue, perhaps comes with it so much that maybe having to do with people falling ill. There seems to be so much sneezing and coughing around, and people wonder what’s in the air. As we continue to wade through the rains, Editor, MORGAN NWANGUMA seeks to know if there is a possible link between the frequent occurrence of the flu and Pneumonia, as well as what you can do to be on top of the weather.

At this time of the year or season, it is somewhat rampant to hear or see an increase in the number of people complaining of various body discomforts. Thus it is common to see people manifesting all manner of symptoms ranging from mild cough to sneezing, feverishness and cold, etc.  We have become very familiar with these especially as we go through the rainy season, and also get set for the winter-like August break. Suffice it to say that some of these complaints sometimes are probably symptomatic of one thing – the flu, an acute febrile and highly contagious viral disease.

Pneumonia is commonly known as a respiratory disease; it is characterised by inflammation of the lung parenchyma (excluding the bronchi) with congestion caused by viruses or bacteria, fungi, parasites or irritants. It is a lung infection that can make you very sick and at the extreme, even cause death. Statistics show that most people with pneumonia are actually able to overcome the disease while about 5% will succumb to the condition; it is a leading cause of death among children of below 5 years of age globally. But the good news is that many at times you can also confidently treat your pneumonia at home if you know the right measures to take.

Causes of Pneumonia

You can contract pneumonia in the cause of carrying out your daily routine such as what goes on around you in the home, at work and even with the children in school, etc. Pneumonia contracted in this manner is what experts refer to as community-associated pneumonia. You can also get healthcare- associated pneumonia when you are somewhat directly exposed to the germs that cause the disease when you find yourself in places like the hospitals or nursing homes. If by chance this happens to you as a patient, then your pneumonia can be severe due to the fact that you are already sick.

Pneumonia is usually caused by both bacteria and viruses, and this starts when they get into your lungs through the process of breathing. Expert studies have shown that it becomes rampant during the rainy season and the August break when the rains tend to halt for a period of say a month around the month of August or September. At this time many people tend to suffer from mild ailments and catching the flu or cold is popular, and this is a condition that usually precipitates the transmission of the disease. And of course these conditions make it very easy for one to get pneumonia since it makes it difficult for your lungs to ward off the infections.

Also, if you have any of the chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, cancer, or asthma, they equally weaken your lung’s potentials to resisting infection, and so it is easy to come down with pneumonia. Experts tend to agree however, that prolonged exposure to cold might have a contributory effect when an infection has already been established thereby possibly leading to pneumonia.

But the fact remains that pneumonia with all it comes with, results as opportunistic secondary infections due to an initial upper respiratory tract infection owing to bacteria, virus or, even fungi attacks. Surveys also show that the incidences of influenza appear to be more during the rainy and cold seasons in the tropical regions such as West Africa, but there have not been very strong proofs linking this to the occurrence of pneumonia. According to the World Health Organisation however, pneumonia has a higher morbidity in tropical countries. And as such, as it is now, pneumonia and pneumonia symptoms may just be in the air.

Symptoms of Pneumonia

Prevention of course is always the best measure to take; that notwithstanding, you will be serving yourself right by being acquainted with the associated signs and symptoms of pneumonia. The patient is likely to run a fever, and have a hard time breathing, or fast breathing; rusty or green mucus (sputum) coughed up from the lungs; shaking chills, chest pain that usually worsens when taking a deep breath (pleuritic pain), fast heartbeat, general tiredness and feeling very weak. Others include – confusion or delirium, nausea/vomiting, sweating, and diarrhoea. When you observe any of these you are advised to quickly consult your health professional.

Treatment

Treatment of pneumonia will normally depend on the severity or otherwise of the disease. Medically pneumonia can very well be treated; Pneumonia infections can often be prevented with vaccines and can usually be treated with antibiotics and antiviral drugs (such as Tamiflu) or some specific drug therapies. However, antibiotic treatment works only on pneumonia caused by bacteria infection while viral pneumonias are pneumonias that do not typically respond to antibiotics. Meanwhile if nosocomial organisms should enter your lungs, you may develop nosocomial pneumonia.

These organisms are germs that have been exposed to strong antibiotics and have over time developed resistance towards the drugs, and they are commonly found in hospitals and nursing homes. On the other hand pneumonias caused by viruse(s) are usually able to go away by you just taking enough rest and also plenty of fluids, whereas fungal pneumonias are typically treated with antifungal drugs. Apart from generally taking plenty of rest, fluid and sleep, pneumonia symptoms can be well managed by taking some simple over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that are prescribed for reducing aches and pains, fevers, and containing coughs.

In treating pneumonia the disease is expected to go away in a period of between 2 to 3 weeks. But in babies and older people, people with low or impaired immune systems, and people with other infections or diseases, the situation can make it linger for longer period of time, and they may actually need to be in hospital for a permanent solution. In the event of a patient being hospitalised, they are usually treated with intravenous antibiotics and possibly put on oxygen.

Apart from what you can generally do to forestall falling ill, or spreading the disease, there are various (natural) home remedies that you can equally apply to yourself to effectively take care of your pneumonia. Many at times this may involve the skilful use of vegetables and oils such as garlic, sesame seeds, cayenne pepper, fenugreek seeds, holy basil & black pepper, turpentine oil, oil of oregano, turmeric, steam inhalation involving the use of essential oils, etc.

Preventing Pneumonia

Pneumonia can be prevented in many ways; this will normally involve Vaccinations and the adoption of Hygienic lifestyle.

Vaccination is a popular step to take in order to prevent pneumonia. However, not all types of pneumonia get prevented by vaccination, but you are at a lesser risk if you have been vaccinated than those who have not, especially those who are in a ‘high risk group’. Children, who are less than 5 years old, and adults of 65 years and above, as well as people with impaired immunity and chronic health conditions, can be vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia which is a common form of bacterial pneumonia. This particular vaccine can keep you protected for up to five years.

Professor Robert Booy from Westmead Children’s Hospital says this group of people should all be vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia. “So many people are dying of something that’s easily preventable. Pneumococcal pneumonia can be prevented by vaccination and people should go see their GP sooner rather than later.

“The most common type of pneumonia is pnemococcal pneumonia … it’s a bacterial infection which is very well protected against by vaccination” Booy said.

Also, you can get a shot of the flu vaccine to prevent you coming down with the seasonal influenza virus. You can get this shot every year thereby preventing the onset of influenza – a leading factor that makes you predisposed to pneumonia attack.

Hand washing

Always ensure to wash your hands on a regular basis with soap and water, or use some form of spirit based medium – like hand sanitisers. Wash your hands before and after preparing or eating food; after using the toilet, blowing your nose, changing diapers, etc.

Do not smoke

Smoking will generally damage the lung’s ability to filter out and also defend itself against germ infestation. At the instance of this, your heart also is exposed to high health risks. Smokers are easily identified as some of the high risk groups because they are easily susceptible to the attack of the pneumonia virus.

Healthy lifestyle

Take general good care of your health by eating healthy and balanced diets so as to maintain a good immune system. Also, take adequate rest and take exercises for a tip top condition. At this rate you will also be able to recover quickly even if you do fall ill experts say. In addition, if you have pneumonia, you are well advised to limit your contact with family members as well as friends.

You must also ensure that you cover your nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing, and quickly dispose of used tissues, and wash handkerchiefs regularly. By so doing you will be helping in no small measures to curtail the spread of the disease, and keeping our nation healthy and strong as we go through this somewhat temperate weather and season.

 

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