What Causes Pneumonia and How Serious Is It?

This article will explore what causes pneumonia and how serious this condition is.

Shivangi Sarkar
Written by: Shivangi SarkarUpdated at: Jan 21, 2023 14:30 IST
What Causes Pneumonia and How Serious Is It?

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Pneumonia is an infection that occurs when bacteria and viruses enter your lungs. It can cause a harmful fluid to build inside your chest, known as pneumoḋiĊ. Generally, it’s not serious if you have it as it tends to improve over a few days. However, if you don’t treat it and it spreads to other parts of your body, then it can become life-threatening. 

Most cases of pneumonia do not require medical attention unless the symptoms are severe or there are other signs that suggest the patient may have something more serious wrong with them. However, this doesn’t mean the risk is negligible – in fact, there are many risks associated with getting pneumonia. This article will explore what causes pneumonia and how serious this condition is.

Risk factors of pneumonia

  • Being older than 65 years - People who are older than 65 years are at a significantly higher risk of developing pneumonia. It can affect anyone but is most common in those who are 65 years and older. 
  • Having a chronic illness - People who have other chronic diseases, like diabetes. 
  • Having pulmonary diseases - People who have chronic lung diseases, like COPD or asthma.
  • Having respiratory viruses - People who recently had a cold or the flu.
  • Smoking - Smoking increases the risk of getting pneumonia.
  • Living in a crowded and unclean environment - People who live in unhealthy conditions, like homeless people or those who live in a nursing home.

Signs and symptoms of pneumonia

Signs and symptoms of pneumonia

  • Cough - You may cough up mucus that may be cloudy or bloody. A persistent or chronic cough is a common sign of pneumonia.
  • Chest pain - Chest pain can also be a sign of pneumonia. It usually comes when you breathe deeply or when your chest is pressed against something. A more serious type of chest pain, called atypical chest pain, can occur when you have pneumonia and is usually associated with aortic valve stenosis or Marfan syndrome. 
  • Shortness of breath - The signs and symptoms of pneumonia can also be accompanied by difficulty breathing, especially during sleep. 
  • A productive cough - This means that you may cough up more than one drop of mucus. 
  • High fever - A high fever, above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, may indicate pneumonia. However, a fever below 103 degrees Fahrenheit does not rule out the presence of pneumonia. 
  • Weight loss - You may experience weight loss or even diarrhoea if you develop pneumonia. 
  • Swollen glands - Swollen glands in your neck, armpit, and groin are also indicative of pneumonia.

Causes of pneumonia

  • A bacterial infection
  • A viral infection
  • COPD: People who have COPD are at an increased risk of developing pneumonia as they are at an increased risk of breathing in pneumonia-causing bacteria and viruses.
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia in people with HIV

Pneumonia Prevention Tips

  • Wash your hands - Washing your hands is one of the most basic ways of preventing the spread of infectious diseases, like Pneumonia. You can also use hand sanitizers to help prevent the spread of germs. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids - You need to drink fluids that are high in electrolytes, like Gatorade, to prevent the build-up of fluid in your lungs if you develop pneumonia. 
  • Get your flu shot - The flu shot is the most effective way of preventing the flu and pneumonia. 
  • Wear a mask - If you develop a cough or a chest infection, you should wear a mask to protect your lungs from infection.
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