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What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, resulting in the air sacs becoming inflamed and filling up with phlegm and pus and sometimes even fluid.
The quickest and fastest way to diagnose pneumonia is through a chest X-ray - where white hazy patches may show up in the lung fields.
A variety of organisms , including bacteria, viruses and fungus, can cause pneumonia. COVID-19 is one of the organisms.
- Phlegm production
- Shortness of breath
- Fever with chills
- Chest pain
- In severe cases or in elderly patients, even confusion and drowsiness
Please see your doctor if you are suffering from the above symptoms as pneumonia can be potentially fatal.
Pneumonia is a very serious condition.
In Singapore, Pneumonia is the second most common cause of death after cancer.World health organisation ( WHO ) estimates that between 250,000 to 5 million people die of pneumonia caused by influenza annually. In fact, pneumonia accounts for about 15% of all deaths of children under 5 years old!
- Virus infection: such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus ( RSV ), the current feared COVID-19 virus, rhinovirus
- Bacterial infection such as streptococcus pneumonia, chlamydia and mycoplasma pneumoniae, legionella, tuberculosis
- less commonly, fungal infection
Risk factors of pneumonia
- Elderlies older than 65
- Children 5 years or younger
- Patients with chronic lung conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease or heart diseases
- Patients who are hospitalised
- Patients who have weakened immune system like HIV patients, or patients who are on chemotherapy or post organ transplant.
How to prevent pneumonia
- Make sure you get vaccinated against the pathogens that can cause pneumonia
- Practise good hygiene by regularly washing your hands and sanitising your hands and to wear masks and rest at home if you are having cough and flu symptoms
- Stop smoking
- Keeping your immune system strong: by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.
Can vaccines help prevent pneumonia ? Yes!
- With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic - Covid-19 vaccine significantly lower our chance of catching the virus.
- Influenza vaccine : which is typically done yearly
- Hemophilus influenza vaccine
- Pertussis vaccine
- Pneumococcal vaccines
For children born and living in Singapore, they routinely receive the 5-in-1 vaccines before they are 1 year of age - this vaccine will protect the children against hemophilus influenza and pertussis.
It is strongly encourage children less than 5 and seniors older than 65 to get their flu vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccines.
For patients who are very sick, they have to be admitted to the hospital and receive Intravenous antibiotics and supportive treatment like supplementary oxygen and close monitoring.
For others, we may treat them outpatient with oral antibiotics and see them regularly to assess their improvement and eventual recovery.
In essence, do recognise that pneumonia is very common, especially in the very young and elderlies. It can be treated and recovery is often complete.
By : Dr Chen Yiming
Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)