What is bacterial pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a common lung infection where the air sacs in the lungs become inflamed. These sacs can also become filled with fluid, pus, and cellular debris. It can be caused by viruses, fungi or bacteria. This article is about pneumonia caused by bacteria.
Bacterial pneumonia may involve only a small part of your lung, or it may involve your entire lung. Pneumonia can prevent your body from getting enough oxygen to your blood, which can prevent cells from working properly.
Bacterial pneumonia can be mild or severe. The severity of your pneumonia depends on:
- the strength of bacteria
- how quickly you are diagnosed and treated
- your age
- overall health
- if you have other conditions or illnesses
The most common symptoms of bacterial pneumonia are:
Other symptoms that may follow include:
Older adults will share all of the symptoms with younger adults, but are much more likely to experience confusion and dizziness. The elderly may also be less likely to have a fever.
Symptoms in children
Pneumonia can be especially dangerous for infants, children and toddlers. They may have symptoms similar to the ones above. In infants, difficulty breathing may be manifested by dilated nostrils or sagging chest when breathing. They may also have bluish lips or nails, which is a sign that they are not getting enough oxygen.
Seek immediate medical attention if you suffer from:
- blood in the mucus
- difficulty in breathing
- high fever of 102.5 ° F or higher
- rapid heartbeat
- skin with a bluish tone
Bacterial pneumonia is caused by bacteria that enter the lungs and then multiply. It can occur on its own or develop after another illness, such as a cold or the flu. People at a higher risk of pneumonia may:
- have a weakened immune system (due to age, illness or malnutrition)
- have respiratory illnesses
- be recovering from an operation
Doctors classify bacterial pneumonia according to whether it has developed inside or outside a hospital.
Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP): It is the most common type of bacterial pneumonia. CAP occurs when you contract an infection after exposure to bacterial agents outside of a healthcare facility. You can get CAP by inhaling respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing, or through skin-to-skin contact.
Nosocomial pneumonia (PAH): BP occurs within two to three days of exposure to germs in a medical setting, such as a hospital or doctor’s office. This is also called a “nosocomial infection”. This type of pneumonia is often more resistant to antibiotics and more difficult to treat than CAP.
Types of bacteria
Streptococcal pneumonia is the main cause of bacterial pneumonia. It can enter your lungs by inhalation or through the bloodstream. There is a vaccine for this type.
Haemophilus influenzae is the second most common cause of bacterial pneumonia. This bacteria can live in your upper respiratory tract. It usually doesn’t cause harm or disease unless your immune system is weakened.
Other bacteria that can cause pneumonia include:
- Staphylococcus aureus
Environmental and lifestyle factors
- work in a very polluted environment
- live or work in a hospital or nursing facility
Medical risk factors
People with these conditions may be at increased risk for pneumonia:
People over 65 and children 2 and under are also at higher risk of developing pneumonia. Make an appointment with your doctor if you or someone you know has symptoms of pneumonia. Pneumonia for this group can be fatal.
The two most common causes of pneumonia are bacteria and viruses. The flu is one of the most common causes of viral pneumonia in adults, although post-flu complications can also cause bacterial pneumonia.
To diagnose bacterial pneumonia, your doctor:
- Listen for abnormal chest sounds that indicate heavy mucus secretion.
- Take a blood sample to determine if your white blood cell count is high, which usually indicates an infection.
- Take a blood culture, which can help determine if the bacteria have spread into your bloodstream and also help identify the bacteria causing the infection.
- Take a sample of mucus or a sputum culture to identify the bacteria causing the infection.
- Order chest x-rays to confirm the presence and extent of infection.
Most cases can be treated at home, with medication, to prevent complications in the hospital setting. A healthy person can recover in one to three weeks. It may take longer for a person with a weakened immune system to feel normal again.
Some cases of bacterial pneumonia will require hospitalization for treatment. Young children and the elderly are more likely to need to go to a hospital for intravenous antibiotics, medical care, and respiratory therapy.
In the hospital, you will be given antibiotics to treat the specific type of bacteria that is causing your pneumonia. This will likely be given intravenously, with fluids to prevent dehydration.
Left untreated, pneumonia can progress to:
- organ failure, due to a bacterial infection
- difficulty in breathing
- pleural effusion, accumulation of fluid in the lungs
- lung abscess, cavity in the lung
Bacterial pneumonia itself is not contagious, but the infection that caused bacterial pneumonia is contagious. It can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and contaminated objects. Good hygiene can help prevent the spread of pneumonia or the risk of catching it.