Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Why preventing pneumonia is important especially amidst the pandemic

 By Dr. Salil Bendre, Consultant - Pulmonology & Bronchoscopy,

Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital



Pneumonia has been a traditionally low priority infection despite contributing to over 25 percent of all infectious deaths. It attracts a mere three percent of infectious disease research spending and six percent of international development assistance for infectious diseases worldwide.


Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of mortality in India and globally. Infants, children, elderly, diabetics, kidney disease are the common risk factors for developing a pneumonia. Smokers, occupational lung diseases, alcoholics and HIV patients are those who are also at high risk of developing pneumonia. Like every disease, pneumonia also needs to be diagnosed early for better outcome.


Pneumonia can be mild or severe. Usually, cough, fever and breathing difficulty are the common symptoms of pneumonia. These symptoms may mimic common cold or allergic cough; however, a chest X-ray confirms the diagnosis of pneumonia. Elderly patients with pneumonia have a risk of developing chest muscle fatigue and may suffer with increasing breathing difficulty. 


Children are the most vulnerable since they have not developed a good immunity. Also, children don't have the ability to cough out the secretions. Frequently they may develop high fever and severe breathing difficulty. So, any cough, fever for more than 3 to 4 days should be advised w Xray chest.


Diabetics should keep their sugars regularly checked and controlled. Cancer patients are also at risk of pneumonia since their immunity is low. Chemotherapy and radiation are also risk factors for developing pneumonia. Every pneumonia does not need to be hospitalized. However, the severity of symptoms, oxygen levels, blood tests and age of the patient are important factors which decide about hospitalization.


Doing blood tests, Sputum tests, CT scan chest will help the treating doctor to know the extent and severity of the disease. Chest Physiotherapy is helpful in the elderly and in those who are unable to expectorate. Oxygen therapy is given to those in whom the oxygen is less .Oral or Intravenous antibiotics are used if the infection is bacterial. For viral infections, Anti Virals are used. Nutritional support is of utmost importance for all patients.


How to prevent pneumonia:


1. Have a regular nutritious diet 

2. Keep diabetes under control

3. Cough and fever should always warrant early doctor’s advice 

4. Vaccines can reduce the severity of pneumonia 

5. Quit smoking 

6. Avoid dust exposure 




Children as well as adults are recommended Influenza and pneumonia vaccines as per the guidelines. Consult your doctors for the schedule of pneumonia vaccination.


What the pandemic has taught us is the time is ‘now’ to invest in the right equipment and training of healthcare workers to diagnose and treat respiratory infections. From a general populace perspective,the onus is on us to be vigilant to symptoms and ensure prompt medical access and treatment where needed. It is also on us to play our role in curbing the biggest contributor to the disease – air pollution and making every breath count

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