Pneumonia is an acute lung infection that can affect one or both lungs. When the alveoli (the part where the lungs and the blood exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide during breathing) get filled with pus, it becomes difficult for the person to breathe. The condition inflames the lungs causing fever, cough, chills, and breathing problems. Pneumonia is caused by bacteria or viruses, which can provoke serious health conditions, especially in children and elders, by attacking their immune system.
Foods that will help prevent pneumonia and strengthen immunity.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), pneumonia is the most common infectious disease in the world that can be prevented with simple interventions, low-cost treatment and medication, and care.
Since pneumonia can occur at any age, it is important to identify the common signs:
• Cough (with yellow, green, or bloody mucus)
• Sweating, rapid breathing, and pulse
• Loss of hunger
• Fatigue and weakness
• Chest pain while coughing or breathing
• Muscle pain
• Shortness of breath
• Chronic cough (in severe cases)
The symptoms can also depend on the type of pneumonia infection.
TYPES OF PNEUMONIA
Some of the different types of pneumonia are:
1. Lobar pneumonia: Also known as Non-segmental pneumonia, this is caused by a bacterial infection that affects one or more lobes of the lungs.
2. Bronchial pneumonia: This fungal or viral pneumonia causes infection in the bronchi of the lungs.
Doctors also describe pneumonia based on the place you get the infection and can be categorised as:
• Hospital-acquired pneumonia (can be acquired during long hospital stay)
• Community-acquired pneumonia (caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or by breathing food, fluid, or vomit into the lungs)
• Bacterial pneumonia (illness, poor nutrition, old age, or impaired immunity where the bacteria infect the lungs)
• Viral infection pneumonia (caused by flu or influenza)
• Fungal infection pneumonia (caused by breathing fungal spores)
• Atypical pneumonia (mild symptoms which can be treated easily)
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT
Treating and preventing pneumonia is possible with the help of medications and following healthy habits that can strengthen your immune system. Some of the treatment options available are:
• Flu is the most common cause of pneumonia and can be treated with a flu vaccination. A flu vaccination once a year protects you against both flu and pneumonia.
• Getting a shot of pneumococcal vaccine for bacterial pneumonia
• Antibiotics for a speedy recovery
• Other treatments that can help treat pneumonia at home include a healthy diet, staying hydrated, oxygen therapy, medicines for pain, fever, and cough
With early identification and doctors’ consultation, pneumonia can be treated at home with few medications and precautions as part of daily routine.
The treatment of pneumonia depends on its type, but following these useful tips will help you prevent pneumonia and strengthen immunity:
• Add yoghurt to your daily diet. The probiotic supplement improves the defence system of the body against infection
• Eating fermented food increases the ability to fight viral and bacterial infections of pneumonia
• Zinc strengthens immunity and fights against lung infection. Some of the rich sources of zinc include red meat, seafood, tofu, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and dairy products
• Increasing the intake of Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and enhances the functioning of immune cells. Vitamin C is abundantly found in fresh fruits and vegetables, sprouts, peppers, parsley, spinach, and other green leafy vegetables.
• Loss of vitamin D is the main cause of common cold and other respiratory tract infections. Including egg yolk, fish, red meat, and breakfast cereals provide supplementation of Vitamin D.
• Including garlic in food strengthens immunity with its antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.
Apart from healthy food, one must avoid smoking, get vaccinated, maintain hand hygiene and be aware of general health practices. The early signs of pneumonia include respiratory problems such as cold, flu, mild fever, muscle aches, or fatigue. You must contact your doctor in case you are experiencing these symptoms. Bacterial pneumonia can adversely affect children and senior citizens. Therefore, timely intervention is prevention.
The writer is from the Department of Pulmonology at CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon.