Watch out for pneumonia in winter, which can bring serious complications. How to recognize it?

In the past, it was a severe disease that often ended in death, and doctors were defenseless against it. With the advent of penicillin and antibiotics, pneumonia has moved into the realm of very treatable conditions. However, if treatment is neglected, deep-going complications may occur in the future. What is it about, how does it manifest itself, and what to do?

It is most often the result of a respiratory infection

Pneumonia can have an infectious and noninfectious origin. Bacterial or viral infection is much more common, and noninfectious inflammatory disorders are less common, for example, because of irritation with chemicals, allergens, or as a consequence of taking some medicine.

If it is infectious pneumonia, the most common pathogens are bacteria, viruses, fungi, or cytomegalovirus. They can cause unilateral or bilateral inflammation.

There are also many situations where a secondary viral infection joins the primary bacterial infection. In the case of parasites or fungi, these are inflammations usually brought from exotic countries or are related to a lower standard of hygiene. The earlier the cause of pneumonia is detected, the better the prognosis.

Watch out for these signs and symptoms

A typical manifestation of pneumonia is a combination of long-lasting and persistent fever and cough. The intensity of these manifestations depends on the spread of inflammation in the body.

These are other manifestations that may appear:

  • the mentioned cough is moist and productive, accompanied by mucus formation and cough-up mucus
  • during more severe inflammation, breathing is accompanied by wheezing, the same applies to coughing
  • shortness of breath is typical, especially during greater physical exertion
  • shivering or chills appear with a fever
  • other symptoms include muscle weakness and pain in the muscles, joints, head, and nausea can also occurs

If it is an atypical form of pneumonia, instead of a fever, “only” a raised body temperature and a dry cough appear. Accompanying symptoms are heavy physical and mental exhaustion, fatigue, lethargy, weakness, aversion to food, and nausea. If the inflammation spreads and disables a large part of the lung tissue, an insufficient level of oxygen in the blood can also occur.

Risk groups of patients and what to watch out for

When it comes to people for whom pneumonia can be risky and have a more severe course, it is typically seniors over the age of 65, pregnant women, young children, and infants.

Problem factors are also smoking, which threatens the capacity and functionality of the lungs for a long time, as well as other chronic diseases related to the lower respiratory system. Patients with overall weakened immunity or take immunosuppressants, cancer patients, immobile patients, and people with advanced AIDS are also generally at risk.

Polymorbid people, i.e., people with several health problems concurrently, can also have a challenging or risky course of inflammation. The most dangerous are high blood pressure, diabetes, overweight or obesity, asthma, and irregular heart activity.

Complex treatment and how to deal with pneumonia

If the pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics must be used as the basis of treatment. The most widely used are types of macrolides with minimal bacterial resistance. Antivirals are indicated for viral infection, reducing the multiplication of the virus.

Symptomatic treatment of individual problems is significant, which should help to facilitate breathing. In practice, these are cough medicines, later to suppress dry coughs, medication to reduce fever or raise body temperature, medication for headaches, or locomotor apparatus in general. These medicines do not suppress inflammation, only its manifestations.

Part of a complex solution to inflammation also includes regimen measures, primarily rest, plenty of fluids, intake of fruits and vegetables, and plenty of sleep.

What complications threaten if you underestimate the situation

If you underestimate pneumonia and do not cure it to a successful end, you expose yourself to several complications. These may also concern risk groups, especially the elderly and people with weakened immunity or associated heart or lung diseases.

The most common complication is the progression of pneumonia to the pleura, where inflammation with a large amount of fluid is formed, and later pus is added and causes an abscess. 

In the case of the spread of pneumonia, there is also a loss of functional lung tissue, which is manifested by acute respiratory distress syndrome. In the gravest cases, hospitalization with pulmonary ventilation may be necessary. In patients with weakened immunity, the risk of developing sepsis, i.e., blood poisoning, and later septic shock can be a complication.


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