Coughing For Weeks? Blood Or Mucus In It? It Can Be Pneumonia
Pneumonia is a disease or a medical condition that affects the lungs. The tissues present in one or both lungs get inflamed or swollen inflammation. Primarily it is the air sacs of lungs that get affected by pneumonia. These air sacs in the lungs are known as alveoli. This health issue is generally caused by viral or bacterial infection, and less commonly because of other microorganisms, and certain drugs. In India, as per UNICEF study, about 3.97 lakhs children under the age of 5 years died of pneumonia in 2010.
Common symptoms include:
- Continuous coughing for days (can be with mucus)
- Difficulty to breathe with the breathing pattern varying as rapid and shallow
- Rapid heartbeat
- Chills and shivers
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in chest
Less common symptoms include:
- Blood during cough (haemoptysis)
It is generally caused by viral or bacterial infection, and less commonly because of fungi and parasites. Since this is a communicable disease, it can be a cause for a non-infected person with a weak immunity system to get infected if in contact with an infected person. Although a healthy person’s body has the ability to fight off these germs making it okay to be around infected people including family members.
Community-acquired pneumonia or CAP is typically and most commonly caused by a bacteria. Streptococcus pneumoniae is isolated in almost 50% of the cases. Other commonly isolated bacteria includes Haemophilus Influenzae, Chlamydophila Pneumoniae, and Mycoplasma Pneumoniae .
This kind of pneumonia can be caused by various viruses, which in young children are a common cause for the disease. The virus include Rhinoviruses, Coronaviruses, Influenza Virus and Para Influenza.
More often than not, the fungal pneumonia is caused by Histoplasma capsulatum, blastomyces,Cryptococcus neoformans, Pneumocystis jiroveci, and Coccidioides immitis. It generally affects people who have a weak immunity system.
Higher risk groups who can get infected by pneumonia:
- New born babies
- People with weak immunity such as those having AIDS
- Elderly people
- People with the medical condition such as asthma
It is extremely important to get early diagnosis for invasive pneumococcal disease. If the doctors suspect that there can be bloodstream infections or disease such as meningitis present in the body then blood samples or cerebrospinal fluid samples may be collected. These samples are then sent over for testing to the labs.
Doctors take the body temperature of the patient to ascertain if there is any fever which indicates of an infection being present in the body. They will use a stethoscope on the chest and the back to listen for any kind of sounds during breathing. Tapping on the chest also gives them an indication if the lungs are filled with water or not, as there will be a different sound in those different cases.
Tests are also conducted to know the vitals. This is done as the symptoms for pneumonia are similar to other diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and even common cold. Sometimes it may happen that the results show low blood pressure or low BP, high heart rate, or even low oxygen saturation. The respiratory rate can get higher or faster than the usual or normal rate which can occur a day or two prior to other signs and symptoms surfacing. During severe cases an X-ray is also advised for a better understanding and diagnosis.
The typical questions the doctor can ask are:
- How long has the cough been there.
- Does the cough consist of any mucus. If it does then what is the colour of that mucus.
- If there are any episodes of breathlessness or even if there have been times when the breathing has become rapid or fast.
- Is there pain in the chest. If there is then does it get worse when breathing in or out.
The treatment typically depends on the cause of the infection and the extent to which the patient is ill. The severity of the illness can change the course of treatment. Antibiotics are generally prescribed by the doctor that helps preventing severe illness in the cases where the patient has pneumococcal disease.
Rest and drinking plenty of fluids are critically important during the time of this disease and is especially beneficial when it is just a case of mild pneumonia. Hospital admission is required if the severity of the illness is higher.
Also it is highly advisable to finish the complete course of antibiotic prescribed by the doctor as the bacteria can become resistant to the antibiotic if the course is stopped randomly.
It should noted that if you smoke then it is imperative that it is stopped as it may damage the lungs to a great extent.
In most cases it is seen that after:
- 1 week the body temperature comes down to normal
- 4 weeks the mucus being produced by the body substantially reduces, and so does the pain in the chest.
- 6 weeks the person starts to breathe normally and the cough also reduces substantially
- 3 months although fatigue or a feeling of tiredness would remain, majority of the symptoms may have gone.
- 6 months the body is back to normal
There are various complications associated with pneumonia, those are:
Pleura is a thin lining between the lungs and the ribcage. Pneumonia tends to affect it by making it inflamed. This is called as pleurisy.
An extremely serious complication that can occur because of pneumonia is blood poisoning which is also known as septicemia.
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