An infection of one or both of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi, pneumonia can be quite serious and result in inflammation and the accumulation of fluid in the air sacs of the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Dr Viswesvaran Balasubramanian, Consultant Interventional Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad, shares the risk factors of pneumonia, the impact of growing pollution on lung health, symptoms and more.
Who Is More At Risk Of Pneumonia
“The various risk factors for pneumonia include patients in extremes of age groups (very young children and the elderly), and those with weakened immune systems, like those with conditions like HIV, cancer or organ transplantation. In addition, tobacco smoking weakens the lung’s defences and can increase the chance of developing serious pneumonia,” says Dr Viswesvaran Balasubramanian. He adds, “Other chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and chronic lung diseases also make the patients susceptible to acquiring pneumonia. Apart from these factors malnutrition, surgeries, indoor and outdoor pollution, and exposure to certain chemicals and fumes can also increase the risk of acquiring pneumonia.”
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Pneumonia Symptoms And Treatment
Patients with pneumonia typically present with high-grade fever with chills and rigour, cough with mucus production, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue and confusion (especially in older adults), says Dr Balasubramanian. “Appearance of bluish discolouration lips or nails may be a sign of severe pneumonia and warrants immediate management,” he adds.
Treatment for pneumonia primarily involves the administration of antibiotics if bacterial pneumonia is diagnosed. “For viral pneumonia, antiviral medications are administered. However rest, and hydration play an important role in faster recovery. Supportive therapy with antipyretics, and oxygen therapy may be required in some cases. Hospitalization is warranted if there are danger signs related to pneumonia-like bluish discolouration of fingers or tongue, bleeding in cough, severe breathlessness or fall in oxygen levels,” Dr Balasubramanian shares.
How Air Pollution Impacts Pneumonia
With several cities across India showing a sharp rise in air pollution, especially those in Delhi-NCR, doctors say people need to be extra cautious. “Exposure to air pollution, especially fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and other pollutants can increase the risk of respiratory infections like pneumonia. Pollutants can irritate the respiratory tract and weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections. It’s important to reduce exposure to air pollution and maintain good respiratory health to lower the risk of pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses,” Dr Balasubramanian says.