Pneumonia is one of the most common medical conditions leading to hospital visits in Kenya. Those at most risk are children below 5 years. This is an inflammation or infection of the lungs usually caused by germs that are easily passed from one person to another when coughing.
Small children and babies who have choked and vomited can get food into their lungs leading to pneumonia.
Those at increased risk:
1.Smokers: Smoking damages the lung’s natural defence which would normally fight off pneumonia.
2.Pollutant exposure: Individuals working in industries that lead them to repeatedly inhale chemicals , dust and toxic fumes can have lung damage which increases their risk.
3.Medical conditions: heart disease, HIV infection, lung problems, chest injuries and poorly controlled diabetes all put one at increased risk.
4.Medication: use of drugs like steroids and cancer therapy can lead to reduced immunity putting one at risk.
5.Extremes of age: although anyone can can pneumonia, it is more common in people below 5 years and above 65 years of age. This is due to relative weakness of the immune system in people in this age group.
6.Alcoholism: the body’s ability to fight infection is lower in alcoholics.
7.Hospitalisation: long hospital stay has a risk of contracting germs from other patients.
- Wet or chesty coughs
- rapid breathing
- chest pain
- general body weakness
*Antibiotics or antivirus medication, something for pain or fever and lots of rest.
*Plenty of fluids and avoid going to work until symptoms have subsided and get follow-up to ensure that the pneumonia has completely cleared.
* It is crucial that one completes their dosage of medication een if they feel better. Germs can still be lurking in the lungs despite the improvement in symptoms.
*Avoid smoking and getting into contact with harmful chemicals.
Currently, there is a vaccine available to prevent pneumonia. People at increased risk e.g. children below 5 years, adults over 65 years, smokers, alcoholics, HIV positive, sickle-cell patients, heart and lung disease patients, diabetics and people with liver problems are advised to get this vaccine. It does not protect against all germs that cause pneumonia but it protects against the most common bacteria that causes it.
Practice good hygiene (hand washing) and maintain a healthy lifestyle for a healthy immune system.
Syrups that are designed to stop you from coughing should be avoided in pneumonia unless under strict instructions of your doctor. Coughing helps clear the airways and this is needed for the pneumonia to heal. Special attention is needed for children in whom certain cough syrups may worsen the condition.
Pneumonia can be life-threatening if not well attended to but with early medical intervention, it can be easily managed.