What Should You Know About Bacterial Pneumonia?

Bacterial pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs due to bacterial infection. Different types of bacteria can cause pneumonia. This type of pneumonia can occur in both lungs, one lung, or one section of a lung.

Streptococcus pneumoniae produces pneumococcal illness, which is a common cause of bacterial pneumonia. It affects over 900,000 people in the United States each year, with about 400,000 of them requiring hospitalization.

Pneumococcal pneumonia kills about 5–7% of patients who are admitted to hospitals for treatment.

Other types of bacteria can cause pneumonia and significant harm, alongside other types of pathogens including viruses, parasites, and fungi.

In this article, we look at the symptoms, causes, and treatments of bacterial pneumonia, as well as how to prevent the disease.

Symptoms

The severity of bacterial pneumonia symptoms can vary. Some people only experience mild symptoms while others develop life-threatening complications.

According to the American Lung Association, typical symptoms of bacterial pneumonia include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • a cough that may produce yellow or green mucus
  • fever
  • tiredness
  • chills

Symptoms of bacterial pneumonia tend to be similar in children and adults. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddlers and infants may cry more than usual, have reduced energy, and appear pale.

A person who suspects symptoms of pneumonia should seek medical attention. The cause of a particular presentation of pneumonia can be difficult to determine without seeing a physician.

Since the treatments for bacterial and viral pneumonia are different, finding the correct cause is vital for choosing the appropriate treatment regimen.

Complications

Bacterial pneumonia might be complicated in both children and adults. Anyone can develop complications from bacterial pneumonia, but people with weaker immune systems, younger children, and older adults have a higher risk.

Complications may include the following:

  • Respiratory failure: This might develop if oxygen levels in the lungs drop too low or if carbon dioxide levels spike. It can occur due to inadequate breathing ability, and respiratory failure may even cause lung function to stop completely.
  • Sepsis: This occurs when an infection causes an overwhelming inflammatory response throughout the body. Sepsis can lead to failure of multiple organs and may be life-threatening.
  • Lung abscess: This occurs when an infected pocket of pus forms in the lung.
  • Empyema: This is an infectious collection of pus in the pleural cavity that surrounds the outside of the lungs.

Swift treatment is vital for reducing the risk of complications.

Causes

Small air sacs called alveoli are within the lobes of each lung. Normally, these air sacs aid in the body’s gas exchange, while inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide.

When a person develops pneumonia, the air sacs experience inflammation, which can cause them to fill with fluid. If the air sacs filled with fluid rather than air, breathing might become difficult.

In some cases, the lungs and the rest of the body may not get enough oxygen.

Types

Community-acquired pneumonia and hospital-acquired pneumonia are the two most common types of pneumonia. The classification is based on where a person contracted the virus.

The most prevalent type of pneumonia is community-acquired pneumonia. Other forms, such as healthcare-associated pneumonia (HCAP) and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), are less common (VAP).

The term “community-acquired pneumonia” refers to an infection that occurred outside of a hospital setting. The pneumococcal bacterium normally reaches the lungs when a person breaths in particles or droplets from another person’s infected sneeze or cough.

Bacteria, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, the most prevalent bacteria, and Haemophilus influenzae, are among the most common causes of community-acquired pneumonia. Viruses, such as influenza viruses, can, nonetheless, cause community-acquired pneumonia.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia develops after being admitted to the hospital for at least 48 hours.

The majority of patients with hospital-acquired pneumonia are critically unwell, and a bacterium colonises their mouth and/or upper respiratory tract, which eventually enters their lungs and causes illness.

The most common reasons are:

Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus are reliable sources of hospital-acquired pneumonia.

Risk factors

Although anyone can develop bacterial pneumonia, certain factors increase the risk.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, people who have a weakened immune system as a result of cancer, cancer treatment, or an organ transplant face an increased risk of bacterial pneumonia.

Smoking tobacco products and having a long-term lung condition, such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis, increases the risk. Being over 65 years of age and having had recent surgery also puts people at a higher risk.

Diagnosis

After completing several diagnostic tests and conducting a complete history and physical exam, healthcare providers can make a diagnosis of bacterial pneumonia. During a physical examination, the doctor will listen to your lungs to see whether they sound abnormal.

A doctor will most likely order a chest X-ray to look for regions of inflammation and infiltration in the lungs.

Additional tests, such as a chest CT scan and an arterial blood gas (ABG) sample, may be used to confirm a pneumonia diagnosis.

An ABG determines breathing efficiency and gas exchange by measuring the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the arterial blood as well as other factors such as pH and bicarbonate levels.

The medical team might also perform a bronchoscopy to look into the lung airways and obtain a biopsy or a mucus sample. The operating doctor inserts a small tube with a tiny camera attached through the mouth into the lungs.

A person receives medication before a bronchoscopy to numb and relax the throat, and the doctor typically also gives intravenous sedating medication.

Treatment

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial pneumonia because they target the specific type of bacteria that is causing the infection. A doctor may also prescribe medicine to help with breathing problems.

Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments to relieve aches and pains and reduce fever are examples of additional medications.

Unless a doctor specifies differently, relaxation and plenty of water are usually part of home care. Even if your symptoms have improved, make sure you finish an antibiotic course according to the doctor’s instructions.

Some patients may need to be sent to the hospital if they have a severe case of bacterial pneumonia, especially if they require supplemental oxygen, are dehydrated, or require mechanical ventilation.

People who experience complications, such as sepsis, may require extra treatment, which may include hospitalization.

As a precaution, those who have an increased risk of complications may also benefit from admission to enable closer monitoring. These groups include people over 65 years or under 2 months of age.

Prevention

Preserving the immune system’s vigour is one of the most effective approaches to avoid bacterial pneumonia. Eating healthy foods, getting adequate sleep, and washing your hands frequently are all smart places to start.

Because bacterial pneumonia can occur as a side effect of the flu, taking an annual flu shot can help avoid pneumonia.

There are two distinct pneumococcal vaccinations available to reduce the risk of bacterial pneumonia caused by the S. pneumoniae bacterium, which is the most prevalent cause of bacterial pneumonia. PCV13 and PPSV23 are two pneumococcal vaccines that protect against 13 and 23 pneumococcal strains, respectively.

Adults over the age of 65 should have both types of vaccines, according to doctors. Starting at the age of two months, children should receive a course of PCV13 vaccinations.

Ultimately, a doctor will be able to determine which vaccine you may need and when to have them.

Recognizing bacterial pneumonia

Viruses and fungi, in addition to bacteria, can cause pneumonia. Pneumonia symptoms are generally identical regardless of the aetiology.

It might be difficult to distinguish between viral and bacterial pneumonia because the symptoms are identical.

Symptoms of bacterial pneumonia are more severe than those of viral pneumonia, according to the Cleveland Clinic, and they might appear abruptly. Symptoms of viral pneumonia develop more slowly and at first resemble those of the flu.

A mucus sample, also known as a sputum sample, is one approach to distinguish between viral and bacterial pneumonia. During a bronchoscopy, a person coughs up a sample of mucus, or a clinician gets one from the lungs.

A medical professional then analyzes it in the laboratory to determine the presence of any bacteria. Supportive treatment for pneumonia, such as supplemental oxygen and fever-reducing medicine, is often the same regardless of the cause.

The main difference in treatment is that antibiotics are for treating bacterial pneumonia but are ineffective for viral pneumonia.

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