Health experts on why it is important to take the lung infection seriously

The Covid-19 pandemic has made a lot of people take care of their health now more than ever before. It doesn`t get easier because the current air pollution in Mumbai makes it difficult to breathe for many people, and worse for those suffering from asthma and other respiratory diseases and lung infections like pneumonia.

The fact that there are some similarities between Covid, and pneumonia makes it even more necessary for people to take care of their health.

Every year, November 12 is observed as World Pneumonia Day. It was first observed in 2009 and has been annually marked to raise awareness about respiratory infection and provide additional adequate information necessary to prevent it. While also occurring in other months, health experts say that the incidence of pneumonia is higher during the colder months. Some of the most obvious symptoms are cough and fever, along with fatigue. However, people shouldn’t take it for granted and immediately visit the doctor as it could lead to further complications. While it is known to affect children, it also affects adults, and that is why people of all age groups should beware of the infection.

With the winter season here, spoke to Dr Kamlesh Pandey, consultant chest physician at Wockhardt Hospitals in Mira Road and Dr Vrushali Bichkar, consultant paediatrician and neonatologist at Motherhood Hospital in Pune. Pandey and Bichkar not only share the causes of the pneumonia, but also the signs and symptoms that people need to look out for, especially during the cold months to deal with the disease in a timely manner.

What is Pneumonia and how is it caused?

Pandey: Pneumonia occurs when the person’s lungs get inflamed (swollen) because of germs like bacteria, viruses or fungi. Germs like bacteria, viruses, and fungi can settle in the lungs when they are inhaled from the air or when they travel from other parts of the body through the bloodstream. Factors such as a weakened immune system, smoking, pre-existing respiratory conditions, and close contact with infected individuals can increase the likelihood of germs settling in the lungs.

What are signs and symptoms of pneumonia?

Bichkar: The signs and symptoms of pneumonia may include cough, fever, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue.

Why should people take pneumonia seriously? Does it get worse during the winter season?

Bichkar: People should takepneumonia seriously because it can lead to severe complications such as respiratory failure, sepsis (infection spreading throughout the body), lung abscesses (pus-filled cavities in the lungs), pleural effusion (build-up of fluid around the lungs), and in some cases, death. Respiratory infections tend to increase during winter due to several factors including cold weather favouring the survival of certain viruses, people spending more time indoors in close proximity, and dry air potentially irritating the respiratory system.

When should people visit the doctor to avoid pneumonia from getting severe?

Pandey: If you are really sick with a high fever, trouble breathing, or chest pain, go see a doctor. This is especially important if you are older in age or not feeling well.

What is the age group that is most susceptible to pneumonia?

Pandey: The age group that is most susceptibleincludes little children, old people, or those with weak immune systems. They can get pneumonia more easily.

Are there any similarities between Covid-19 and pneumonia? And how can people distinguish one from the other?

Pandey: Both Covid-19 and pneumonia make it hard to breathe, but they are different. It is important for doctors to test to know which one the person is suffering from because Covid-19 and pneumonia are different in several aspects. Covid-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, while pneumonia can be caused by various pathogens including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. primarily affects the respiratory system but can also impact other organs, while pneumonia specifically refers to infection and inflammation of the lungs. Additionally, Covid-19 has shown a higher transmission rate and can lead to severe complications in some cases.

Are people who have suffered from Covid-19 more at risk than others of suffering from pneumonia?

Bichkar: People who have had Covid-19 in the past may be at an increased risk of complications like pneumonia, but it doesn`t necessarily make someone more prone to pneumonia in the future.

Does Mumbai`s current level of air pollution increase the risk of pneumonia?

Pandey: Air pollution has been linked to an increased risk of respiratory infections, including pneumonia. In the case of Mumbai`s current air pollution, it may contribute to respiratory ailments and potentially increase the risk of pneumonia. However, it is important to note that pneumonia can also be caused by various other factors, and a comprehensive assessment of an individual`s health, lifestyle, and other risk factors is needed to determine the specific impact of air pollution on their risk of pneumonia.

What is the treatment for pneumonia? Should people risk self-medicating at the start?

Bichkar: Treatment for pneumonia often involves antibiotics, rest, and supportive care. It is important to consult a healthcare professional rather than self-medicating.

What are the foods that people can eat to prevent pneumonia?

Bichkar: People should adopt a balanced diet with vitamins and minerals. They should include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains because it can support overall immunity and health. While there are no specific fruits or vegetables that directly prevent or treat pneumonia, maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables can support overall immune health. Consuming a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables provides essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that contribute to a strong immune system, which can help in preventing and combating infections.


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