We’ve all heard about someone having pneumonia, whether it’s a family member or some famous celebrity, so it does not belong in that category of rare diseases by any means. That said, it still is harmful to a lot of people.

doctor with x-ray

So, what exactly is pneumonia and how do you get it? Pneumonia is essentially an infection in the air sacs in the lungs. There are fairly common sources – from a virus, from bacteria, from fungi and through aspiration of food or liquids into the lungs. Most of us are exposed to viruses and bacteria on a regular basis, but don’t get ill from them. When our immune systems are weakened due to some type of disease or medications, or even trauma and surgery, we are far more prone to becoming ill.
Bacterial pneumonia can often be the more serious of pneumonias and may lead to being hospitalized for aggressive treatment such as intravenous antibiotics and oxygen therapy.


Because the pneumonia can interfere with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs, a person’s oxygen level in the blood can drop, leaving them short of breath and even gasping for air with minimal activity. Oxygen therapy can help with this along with other types of respiratory treatments to help clear the lungs.


Viral types of pneumonia may be seen in children, especially those that were prematurely born and their immune systems are delayed in developing.


Aspiration pneumonia can occur in people who have had a stroke, have a progressive neurological disease such as Parkinson’s disease or even dementia. Fluids or food may end up going into the lungs because the swallowing mechanism has generally been affected. This can sometimes be a permanent issue and other treatment options may be done to help.


Regardless of the cause, pneumonia can be very harmful and even deadly, so the key is early diagnosis and treatment. Part of that treatment is managing any symptoms as well as medications to treat the disease itself – helping to alleviate fevers, using oxygen to assist with breathing and fluids to prevent dehydration, and of course, plenty of rest!


Have you ever had pneumonia? If so, what treatment did you receive?


Author: Cheryl A. Acres RN, CCM

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