Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs - it can be caused by a virus or by bacteria. There is also a third type of pneumonia that is caused by fungi. Because of the infection, fluid (pus and mucus) collects in the alveoli (air sacs) and that is why people associate pneumonia with having fluid in the lungs. With the infection and the fluid, the linings of the alveoli swell and become less elastic, making it harder for the oxygen to get through.
Most pneumonias are caused by a virus. These types of pneumonia cannot be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics will not kill viruses, nor will they shorten the length of time you are sick. It can be frustrating to find out that you have pneumonia and your doctor not give you anything, but that is how it works with viral pneumonia, unfortunately. Viral pneumonias are, however, usually the less serious of them all.
Bacterial pneumonia is the type that is treated by antibiotics. Fungal pneumonia is treated with anti-fungals.
You can also get pneumonia called aspiration pneumonia. This happens when someone inhales a liquid, food, or chemicals. Many elderly who cannot swallow properly, as well as people who have had strokes, can develop this type of pneumonia easily.
The symptoms of pneumonia can include:
- laboured breathing
- rapid breathing
- painful breathing
- fever, chills
So, can someone die from pneumonia? We heard in the news that actor and comedian Bernie Mac died of complications from pneumonia. He was only 50 years old. Most deaths from pneumonia are among the elderly or people with chronic illnesses. Bernie Mac fell into that second category. Apparently, he had sarcoidosis, which made him more vulnerable to illnesses like pneumonia.
When someone dies from "complications of pneumonia," they have died from sepsis, which is the body's toxic response to infections, like pneumonia. In the United States alone, sepsis kills one person every two minutes. For more information, visit SepsisAlliance.org or go directly to their page on pneumonia: Sepsis and Pneumonia.
Can pneumonia be prevented? In some cases, yes. When a person has undergone a general anesthetic, often they can't understand and don't like it when their nurses are getting them out of bed just hours after surgery, if it's possible. That's because people who don't move around enough and have had anesthetic can develop pneumonia. The same thing happens if you have a cold. Even though you don't feel like moving around, you should. If an elderly person chokes easily on food, he or she needs to be able to take their time to eat and not be rushed, which ill increase the chances of aspirating food or liquid. In terms of viruses, high risk groups are being encouraged to get vaccinated against certain types of pneumonia. Vaccination doesn't eliminate the risk of developing it, but vaccines do reduce the possibility.