Our immune systems function in a way that is meant to keep germs out of the body. To keep your lungs from being infected by germs, your nose and air passages filter the air you breath. No system is perfect though, and you can still experience a lung infection when germs get past your body’s security system.
What Is Pneumonia?
Germs such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause pneumonia, a common type of lung infection. Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria can be spread via close contact or coughing. This causes the most common type of bacterial pneumonia – pneumococcal pneumonia. Once the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria reach your lungs, they cause the air sacs in your lungs, called alveoli, to become inflamed and fill with mucus. Breathing becomes more difficult. Oxygen levels in your blood can be reduced as a result of the inflamed alveoli, which can have fatal consequences.
What Are The Symptoms of Pneumonia?
The onset of symptoms can happen quickly. Symptoms can include:
- Chest pain, due to coughing and increased difficulty breathing
- A cough with phlegm, which either persists or gets worse
- Excessive sweating
- A high fever, accompanied by shaking chills
Symptoms such as cough and fatigue can continue for weeks, or even longer. In a serious case of pneumoccocal pneumonia, you can be hospitalized.
Who Can Catch Pneumonia?
Although anyone is susceptible to catching pneumoccocal pneumonia, there are some people who have a higher risk. Lung infections are more common in people whose immune systems are weak, who have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or people whose body is unable to properly filter germs out of the air they breath.
For people over 65 who have COPD, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, there is a risk of contracting pneumococcal pneumonia that is 7.7 times higher than people without COPD. Those who have asthma experience a risk increased by 5.9 times. Both COPD and asthma have a similar effect as pneumococcal pneumonia – they cause your air passages to swell, and then mucus blocks your airways. This makes it very difficult to breath. Your entire respiratory
system is compromised, making it more likely to contract lung infections such as pneumoccocal pneumonia. If you suffer from chronic lung disease and then contract pneumococcal pneumonia, your symptoms are more likely to be severe enough to result in hospitalization. Recovery from the disease may take longer, and you have a higher risk of developing serious complications.
Because our immune systems weaken as we age, our bodies become more prone to developing infections and diseases. Serious complications and hospitalization from pneumococcal pneumonia is over ten times more likely in adults aged 65 and up when compared to adults between the ages of 18 and 49. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults aged 65 and up get the pneumococcal vaccine.
If you have an increased risk of contracting a lung infection and developing complications from it, contact familyfirst Family Medical Group today.