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Protect yourself from pneumonia

<p></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><img src="/nairobi/PublishingImages/Pneumonia%20body%20image.jpg" alt="" style="margin: 5px;"/></span> </p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">If you have difficulty breathing, a cough that is persistent, chills, body and chest pain, then you could be suffering from pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. It leads to inflammation in the air sacs of one or both lungs. These sacs, called alveoli, fill with fluid or pus, making it difficult to breathe. Here&#39;s what you need to know about pneumonia to protect yourself from contracting the disease.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Can pneumonia cause death?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Yes, pneumonia can be serious and can cause death. Complications from pneumonia include respiratory failure, sepsis and lung abscess and are more likely to affect older adults, young children, those with a weakened immune system and people with other medical problems. However, if you&#39;re generally healthy, then you are likely to recover well after treatment, but be sure to seek medical attention in case you have any symptoms. </span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Are you seeing more pneumonia cases in your clinic if yes, why is this the case?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">This fluctuates with the season.  Influenza is a common cause of pneumonia and is most prevalent in the months of October to May.  In colder weather, we see more symptoms suggestive of pneumonia.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Is pneumonia contagious?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Yes, some organisms that cause pneumonia can be spread through coughing, sneezing or poor hygiene.   You can help prevent the spread of a pneumonia by taking some simple hygiene precautions like washing your hands regularly and thoroughly, particularly after touching your nose and mouth, and before handling food, coughing and sneezing into a tissue, then discarding it safely and washing your hands thereafter.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What organs are affected by pneumonia?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Usually, the lungs but when it is serious and progressive, one can develop an infection of the blood, brain and other vital organs.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Briefly describe how these organs are affected.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Often pneumonia causes inflammation in the air sacs of one or both lungs. These sacs, called alveoli, fill with fluid or pus, making it difficult to breathe but can also affect other major organs such as your heart, kidney and brain.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What causes pneumonia?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Many bacteria, viruses and fungi can cause the infections that lead to pneumonia. Bacteria are the most common cause in adults and viruses are the most common cause in school-going children. Pneumonia can also be caused by exposure to certain toxic chemicals</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Can pneumonia progress to become chronic and at what point?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Usually, pneumonia resolves in a few weeks but you can certainly have post-pneumonia symptoms that linger-on. Most notorious is a cough and generalized weakness that gets better with time.  In some rare cases, especially in people with a poor immune system and poorly controlled medical conditions, the pneumonia can persist for weeks.  Some pneumonias especially the ones caused by fungal elements need long-term treatment.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What symptoms can one be on the lookout for?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Common symptoms that patients present with include fever, productive cough, chest pain and difficulty breathing.  Most patients will also have chills and body pains.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What about diagnosis?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Usually, a good history and physical exam by your health care provider can diagnose a pneumonia.  Your doctor might also order blood tests and a chest Xray as well.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How do you manage patients with pneumonia?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Most pneumonias are self-limited, but some require antibiotics and other key medications.  Rest and fluids are certainly helpful.  Keep away from others while you have symptoms and practice good hygiene such as covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing and washing your hands regularly to minimize spread of the causative organism.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How can I prevent suffering from pneumonia?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Take care of your medical conditions, exercise, eat a healthy diet and take care of your stress.  Get to see your healthcare provider for your annual check-up if you haven&#39;t done so yet.  If you have any symptoms stated above, seek medical advice soonest possible.  Don&#39;t forget to get your immunizations that prevent against getting a pneumonia.
</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><em><strong>By Prof. Sayed Karar, and Dr Soraiya Manji, Internal Medicine Specialists at Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi</strong></em>
</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><em><strong>This article was first published in Daily Nation on November 7, 2023</strong></em></span></p>

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