Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lung, usually caused by an infection. Three common causes are bacteria, viruses and fungi. You can also get pneumonia by accidentally inhaling a liquid or chemical. People most at risk are older than 65 or younger than 2 years of age, or already have health problems.
If you have pneumonia, you may have difficulty breathing and have a cough and a fever. A physical exam and history can help determine if you have pneumonia. Chest x-rays and blood tests can help determine what is wrong. Treatment depends on what made you sick. If bacteria are the cause, antibiotics should help. Viral pneumonia may get better with rest and drinking liquids.
Preventing pneumonia is always better than treating it. The best preventive measures include washing your hands frequently, not smoking, and wearing a mask when cleaning dusty or moldy areas. There is a vaccine for pneumococcal pneumonia, a bacterial infection which accounts for up to a quarter of all pneumonias.
(MedlinePlus: National Institutes of Health)
Key Point 1
Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to severe. Severe pneumonia has a high mortality rate, so the key first steps are early diagnosis, assessment of severity, and deciding where to treat.
Key Point 2
Pneumonia can be a very aggressive, even fatal disease. Whether it’s viral or bacterial, it can be very virulent, so care should not be delayed. Early treatment of pneumonia is associated with better outcomes. A good first step toward prevention is getting the pneumonia vaccine which will prevent a fair number of pneumonias.
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There are a very large number of organizations and websites dedicated to Pneumonia. This is only a partial list.
American Lung Association: The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through Education, Advocacy and Research.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC): For over 60 years, CDC has been dedicated to protecting health and promoting quality of life through the prevention and control of disease, injury, and disability.
University of Rochester Medical Center: One of the nation's top academic medical centers, the University of Rochester Medical Center forms the centerpiece of the University's health research, teaching, patient care, and community outreach missions.