Pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection that harms the lungs. The tiny sacs making up the lungs, called alveoli, fills with pus and fluid during pneumonia, which causes breathing difficulties and constricts oxygen flow. The common causes are bacterial, viral or fungal.
According to the WHO, 15% of death among children below the age of five is linked to pneumonia. The annual number of deaths caused by pneumonia from influenza is approximately between 250,000 to 500,000 people as per WHO reports. Although this disease exists worldwide, South Asian countries are at higher risks, owing to malnutrition and poor child rearing conditions across many poverty-stricken households.
This article will look at the various causes, types and treatment for this deadly disease – pneumonia.
Causes of Pneumonia
- indoor pollution due to cooking, living in cramped spaces and passive smoking.
- those with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart diseases, COPD or weak immune systems as a result of HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy or organ or blood and marrow stem cell transplant.
- Coronavirus depicts symptoms such as fever, cough, fatigue and sore throat. The latter stages of COVID-19 may lead to pneumonia, causing breathing challenges, rapid heartbeat, dizziness and heavy sweating.
- Therefore, it is imperative to take the necessary preventive measures to protect yourself.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
The signs can range from mild to severe, and the most common symptoms are:
- High fever and chills
- Persistent cough or excretion of yellow, greenish or bloody mucus
- Breathing difficulties during normal activities or during deep breathing
- Chest pain
- Health deterioration following the flu or a cold
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue, lethargy and drowsiness
- Lips and nails turning blue
- Irregular urination, especially among the elderly
Children may indicate further symptoms such as:
- Irritability, fussiness and restlessness
- Faster breathing or wheezing
- Pale or flushed skin
- Throwing up or rejecting food
Types of Pneumonia
There are four main routes to acquire pneumonia:
- Viral Pneumonia – This is a mild form of pneumonia from a virus, which may become dangerous if treatment is neglected. This is common among infants below 24 months of age. They may acquire this after a cold, flu or Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which infects the respiratory tract.
- Bacterial Pneumonia – This may occur without any external causes or following an illness and is caused by various types of bacteria. Generally it affects one out of the five lobes of the lungs.
- Fungal Pneumonia – Resulting from inhaling fungal organisms such as bird droppings or fungi contaminated soil, this type of pneumonia is more likely to develop among those with weak immune systems.
- Aspiration Pneumonia – Inhaling saliva, vomit, food or drinks into the lungs may result in this form of pneumonia. This could be by accident or as a result of drug or alcohol misuse, illness or brain injury.
There are chances of getting pneumonia from coming in contact with healthcare centres and hospitals. These are known as Healthcare-acquired Pneumonia and Hospital-acquired Pneumonia. The bacteria in this case is difficult to treat as it is likely to be antibiotic resistant.
A number of examinations including chest X-rays, blood and in some cases, sputum tests are conducted to diagnose the patient. Timely treatment is crucial.
A Bacterial Pneumonia mainly relies on an antibiotic treatment while Viral Pneumonias use antiviral therapy. On the other hand, Fungal Pneumonia also uses antibiotics, especially for those who were previously considered healthy.
Hydration, proper temperature management and treatment for chest pain are other important factors to consider.
As the symptoms may vary from mild to severe, the patient will be either asked to take the medicines from home over the recommended duration or get hospitalised based on the level of threat present. For the latter, a combination therapy is used such as antibiotics and vaccinations.
In serious cases, patients are usually provided with oxygen therapy, Nebulization and ICU support. Concerning Hospital-acquired Pneumonia or those who are on immunosuppressive medications, potent intravenous medicines are administered.
WHO (2019) Pneumonia. Available at:
Amarasinghe, P. (2018) ‘Pneumonia dreaded malady of lungs’, Daily Mirror, 28 September. Available at:
WebMD (2020) Coronavirus and pneumonia. Available at:
National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute (2020) Pneumonia. Available at:
Ghimire, M., Bhattacharya, S.K. and Narain, J.P. (2012) Pneumonia in South-East Asia region: public health perspective’, Indian Journal of Medical Research, 135(4), pp. 459–468. Available at:
Mount Elizabeth Hospitals (2020) Pneumonia and coronavirus. Available at: