What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation of the air sacs in one or both lungs. This inflammation prevents oxygen from entering your bloodstream, causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing which can make it harder for your organs to work properly.
It is a fairly common health issue that can affect both adults and children. In Malaysia pneumonia commonly affects the elderly, who are more susceptible due to their weakened state by old age. However, pneumonia can attack anyone of any age.
Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. It is most serious for infants and young children, people older than age 65, and people with health problems or weakened immune systems.
This article, written by Dr. Nurul Yaqeen, a pneumonia specialist and respiratory therapist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, provides a good overview for those looking to learn more about Pneumonia in Malaysia and how to treat it.
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How serious is Pneumonia in Malaysia?
In the past pneumonia was a major cause of death in Malaysia, but with good medical care pneumonia now is a less frequent cause of death. However, pneumonia still remains one of the leading causes of death from infectious diseases. In 2020, 12.2% of deaths in Malaysia were caused by pneumonia alone.
What are the symptoms of Pneumonia?
People who contract pneumonia may come down with symptoms anytime between 1 day and three weeks after pneumonia has been contracted. The pneumonia symptoms start gradually but can escalate quickly if complications occur.
In some cases, pneumonia can affect other areas of the body such as the ears/sinuses, kidneys, bladder, and intestines.
Symptoms vary depending on the age group affected and will range from mild to severe pneumonia, which can lead to death if pneumonia is not treated in time.
Symptoms may include:
- – Cough, which may produce mucus or pus
- – Breathlessness or wheezing
- – Chills or fever
- – Headache
- – Muscle pain and/or chest pain
- – Less ability to breath than normal
If pneumonia symptoms are mild, a person may have an uncomfortable feeling of being unwell or just have a dry cough. Symptoms can also come and go at first.
As pneumonia becomes more serious, symptoms worsen and the person is likely to take longer to recover after each coughing spell. At this stage additional symptoms may include:
- – Difficulty breathing or chest pain
- – Bluish skin color
- – Confusion
- – Extreme tiredness.
When to see a doctor for Pneumonia?
See your doctor if you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, persistent fever of 102 F (39 C) or higher, or persistent cough, especially if you’re coughing up pus.
It’s especially important that people in these high-risk groups see a doctor:
- Adults older than age 65
- Children younger than age 2 with signs and symptoms
- People with an underlying health condition or weakened immune system
- People receiving chemotherapy or taking medication that suppresses the immune system
For some older adults and people with heart failure or chronic lung problems, pneumonia can quickly become a life-threatening condition.
How long does Pneumonia last?
Symptoms of pneumonia usually improve after a few days. But you might feel tired for several weeks after pneumonia goes away.
If you have bacterial pneumonia, pneumonia-related complications could develop. Pneumonia-related complications can have pneumonia lasting from just a few days to several months or even years, so early treatment is important.
What causes Pneumonia?
Many germs can cause pneumonia. The most common are bacteria and viruses in the air we breathe. Your body usually prevents these germs from infecting your lungs. But sometimes these germs can overpower your immune system, even if your health is generally good.
Pneumonia is most commonly caused by the pneumonia bacterium. This bacterium can spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, but it cannot survive for long outside the body.
Direct contact with someone who has pneumonia is not typically enough to cause pneumonia.
People can get pneumonia when they inhale droplets (tiny drops) of moisture that contain the pneumonia germ.
People who smoke or have lung disease are more likely to develop pneumonia because these conditions make it harder to clear the airways of germs and other particles
Pneumonia can also be caused by viruses, fungi, and parasites.
What are the complications of Pneumonia?
Complications of pneumonia can occur when your pneumonia is caused by a bacterium, virus, fungus, or other organisms that invade your bloodstream and spread throughout your body to cause pneumonia in other areas.
Older adults are at increased risk for pneumonia complications, especially if pneumonia is caused by a bacterium rather than a virus. People who already have chronic health problems are also at increased risk of pneumonia-related complications. Some pneumonia cases lead to shock or septicemia (bloodstream infection) which can result in pneumonia-related complications.
In pneumonia cases where pneumonia has caused the person’s airway to become swollen and blocked, fluid may collect in the lungs and cause respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). ARDS is a pneumonia complication that can be life-threatening.
Who should get tested for Pneumonia?
People who have symptoms of pneumonia, especially symptoms that do not go away after using home treatment, should see their doctor. People with pneumonia symptoms who have also had a chronic health condition or who are smokers are at increased risk for pneumonia-related complications and need to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.
How is Pneumonia diagnosed?
A pneumonia diagnosis is made by your doctor based on your symptoms, a physical examination, and the results of various tests.
The doctor will start by asking about your medical history and doing a physical exam, including listening to your lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal bubbling or crackling sounds that suggest pneumonia.
An x-ray is sometimes needed to confirm pneumonia. Symptoms are also used to determine how serious pneumonia is.
What are the different types of Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is classified according to the types of germs that cause it and where you got the infection.
There are 4 main types of pneumonia based on how you get the infection:
- Community-acquired pneumonia
- Hospital-acquired pneumonia
- Health care-acquired pneumonia
- Aspiration pneumonia
This is the most common type of pneumonia. It occurs outside of hospitals or other health care facilities. It may be caused by:
- Bacteria. The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in the U.S. is Streptococcus pneumoniae. This type of pneumonia can occur on its own or after you’ve had a cold or the flu. It may affect one part (lobe) of the lung, a condition called lobar pneumonia.
- Bacteria-like organisms. Mycoplasma pneumoniae also can cause pneumonia. It typically produces milder symptoms than do other types of pneumonia. Walking pneumonia is an informal name given to this type of pneumonia, which typically isn’t severe enough to require bed rest.
- Fungi. This type of pneumonia is most common in people with chronic health problems or weakened immune systems, and in people who have inhaled large doses of the organisms. The fungi that cause it can be found in soil or bird droppings and vary depending upon geographic location.
- Viruses, including COVID-19. Some of the viruses that cause colds and the flu can cause pneumonia. Viruses are the most common cause of pneumonia in children younger than 5 years. Viral pneumonia is usually mild. But in some cases it can become very serious. Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) may cause pneumonia, which can become severe.
Some people catch pneumonia during a hospital stay for another illness. Hospital-acquired pneumonia can be serious because the bacteria causing it may be more resistant to antibiotics and because the people who get it are already sick. People who are on breathing machines (ventilators), often used in intensive care units, are at higher risk of this type of pneumonia.
Health care-acquired pneumonia
Health care-acquired pneumonia is a bacterial infection that occurs in people who live in long-term care facilities or who receive care in outpatient clinics, including kidney dialysis centers. Like hospital-acquired pneumonia, health care-acquired pneumonia can be caused by bacteria that are more resistant to antibiotics.
Aspiration pneumonia occurs when you inhale food, drink, vomit or saliva into your lungs. Aspiration is more likely if something disturbs your normal gag reflex, such as a brain injury or swallowing problem, or excessive use of alcohol or drugs.
The signs and symptoms of pneumonia vary from mild to severe, depending on factors such as the type of germ causing the infection, and your age and overall health. Mild signs and symptoms often are similar to those of a cold or flu, but they last longer.
What are the treatments for pneumonia in Malaysia?
Treatment for pneumonia includes curing the infection and preventing complications.
People who have community-acquired pneumonia usually can be treated at home with medication.
Although most symptoms ease in a few days or weeks, the feeling of tiredness can persist for a month or more.
Specific treatments depend on the type and severity of your pneumonia, your age and your overall health. The options include:
- Antibiotics. These medicines are used to treat bacterial pneumonia. It may take time to identify the type of bacteria causing your pneumonia and to choose the best antibiotic to treat it. If your symptoms don’t improve, your doctor may recommend a different antibiotic.
- Cough medicine. This medicine may be used to calm your cough so that you can rest. Because coughing helps loosen and move fluid from your lungs, it’s a good idea not to eliminate your cough completely. In addition, you should know that very few studies have looked at whether over-the-counter cough medicines lessen coughing caused by pneumonia. If you want to try a cough suppressant, use the lowest dose that helps you rest.
- Fever reducers/pain relievers. You may take these as needed for fever and discomfort. These include drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
Will I need to be hospitalised for Pneumonia?
Most people do not require hospitalisation.
However, you may need to be hospitalized if:
- You are older than age 65
- You are confused about time, people or places
- Your kidney function has declined
- Your systolic blood pressure is below 90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or your diastolic blood pressure is 60 mm Hg or below
- Your breathing is rapid (30 breaths or more a minute)
- You need breathing assistance
- Your temperature is below normal
- Your heart rate is below 50 or above 100
You may be admitted to the intensive care unit if you need to be placed on a breathing machine (ventilator) or if your symptoms are severe.
Children may be hospitalized if:
- They are younger than age 2 months
- They are lethargic or excessively sleepy
- They have trouble breathing
- They have low blood oxygen levels
- They appear dehydrated
How can Pneumonia be prevented?
The best way to prevent pneumonia is by getting vaccinated against pneumonia and other diseases such as influenza (flu) and chickenpox (varicella)
People who smoke or have lung disease are at increased risk of pneumonia. People who smoke should stop smoking and people with lung disease should make sure they follow doctor’s pneumonia treatment instructions.
The pneumonia vaccine is recommended for children over the age of 2, who are at increased risk of pneumonia.
Conclusion on Pneumonia Malaysia
Although pneumonia can be a serious lung infection, it is very treatable.
Most people who receive pneumonia treatment in the form of antibiotics or other medications feel better within days. It is important to rest and drink fluids when you are fighting any kind of infection, including pneumonia.
In addition, getting vaccinated against pneumonia and other diseases can help prevent this illness from occurring in the first place.