With cold weather hitting most of the country, the chances of catching some sort of infection increase. We’re heading into busy stores for holiday shopping, handling gas station pumps full of germs, and spending time around sick colleagues or schoolmates. While the common cold is usually fairly mild, there are several other diseases that can be more serious, such as pneumonia.
Pneumonia is an infection in one or both of your lungs that causes your air sacs to fill up with fluid or pus. The disease has more than 30 different causes, but is generally the result of bacteria, a virus, or fungi. Understanding the symptoms and causes of pneumonia is critical to protecting your health and determining the type of treatment you might need.
Causes of Pneumonia
Treating pneumonia begins with determining what caused the infection in the first place. The illness is typically caused by bacteria, a virus, or fungi, and each source requires different treatment. The type of infection you have will also indicate how severe the disease is, as well as inform the treatment plan. There are also several other risk factors that may result in a more severe infection or affect the time it takes you to recover.
Bacterial pneumonia is the most common form of the infection. It can occur at any time or specifically after you’ve had a cold or flu. You’re at a greater risk of developing bacterial pneumonia if you have a weakened immune system, elderly, very young, are recovering from surgery, or have a respiratory disease.
There are various types of bacteria that cause pneumonia:
- Streptococcus pneumonia: The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia. These bacteria enter your lungs through your bloodstream or inhalation.
- Haemophilus influenzae: The second most common cause of the disease. This type may already live in your upper respiratory system but typically won’t cause harm or illness unless you already have a weakened immune system.
- Staphylococcus (space) aureus: This bacterial can cause severe pneumonia. This type of pneumonia can more commonly occur after a bad viral infection, in people with weakened immune systems or chronic health conditions or after being in the hospital.
- Moraxella (space) catarrhalis: These bacteria are famous for causing infections in patients with chronic lung disease.
Viral pneumonia is a viral infection of the lungs and lower airways. Influenza is a common cause of viral pneumonia. Although viral pneumonia does not require antibiotics, patients can have complications such as difficulties breathing or low oxygen levels. Inflammation in the lungs put patients at risk for additional bacterial infections. It is possible to have both bacterial and viral pneumonia at the same time. It is important to see a doctor if you have severe symptoms, symptoms that are not getting better or trouble breathing.