Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs usually caused by a bacteria or viral infection.
Pneumonia is a serious medical condition and may cause life-threatening illnesses even in otherwise healthy people.
Pneumonia infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or chemical and physical injury. It is a lung inflammation that most often follows bacterial or viral respiratory infections. Frequent causes include the common cold (e.g. rhinovirus infection), Influenza (flu), COVID-19, pneumococcal disease or respiratory syncytial viral (RSV) infection.
In pneumonia, the alveoli (air-filled sacs in the lungs responsible for absorbing oxygen) are filled with pus and other fluids making it difficult for oxygen to reach the blood. With little oxygen in the blood, your body cells cannot function properly. When the lungs become congested with fluids, breathing becomes difficult.
Medication to treat pneumonia depends on the germs (bacteria/virus) that cause the infection. If pneumonia is due to bacteria, antibiotics are usually prescribed. If the pneumonia is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not be effective as antibiotics do not work on viruses.
A few viral pneumonias may be treated with antiviral medication. Besides antibiotics and antiviral medication, supportive treatment is also given, which includes medication to relieve coughing, fever, chest pains and body aches.
For mild cases of viral pneumonia, good bed rest, a balanced diet and plenty of fluids may be all that is necessary. But severe cases of pneumonia may require hospitalisation, intravenous antibiotics or anti-viral medications and oxygen or other supportive therapies. Severe cases of pneumonia can be life threatening.
Influenza vaccination ("flu shot")- annually
Wash hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Your hands are the part of your body most in contact with germs that can cause pneumonia. These germs enter your body when you touch your eyes, mouth and nose. When soap and water are not readily available, use an
alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
• Lead a
healthy lifestyle. Eating healthily with a diet rich in
fruit and vegetables, and engaging in
regular physical activity can help keep your immune system strong and healthy. Stay hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of plain water daily.
• Mask up! If you don't feel well, wear a mask if you need to leave your home to visit a doctor. This will help to protect others from your germs and protect you from catching other infections while your immune system is working hard.
• Quit smoking. Smoking damages your lungs and lowers your resistance to fight respiratory infections. Also, smokers who develop pneumonia get more complications than non-smokers.
If you have symptoms of pneumonia:
• See your family doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia are important.
• Take the full course of any antibiotic medication that your doctor prescribes. This will help prevent a relapse.
• Rest at home until you are well.
• Protect others from the infection by washing your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds and wearing a surgical mask when you feel unwell
• Sneeze or cough into a tissue.
MediSave, up to $500/$700 per year per account, can be used for pneumococcal vaccinations for persons with a higher risk of developing influenza-related complications and/or severe pneumococcal disease.
Eligible Singaporeans such as seniors aged 65 years old and above are eligible for pneumococcal vaccination subsidies at CHAS GP clinics and polyclinics. Click
here for more information on subsidies available, other vaccine-preventable diseases and frequently asked questions.
• Pneumonia in Children: Symptoms and Treatment• Pneumococcal Disease• Community-Acquired Pneumonia (CAP) Treatment: The Airway Programme
This article was last reviewed on
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
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