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How Much Do You Really Know About Pneumonia?

April 25, 2022 | Health information brought to you by Pfizer Malaysia in partnership with DoctorOnCall.

Though pneumonia remains a pressing health issue that can lead to life-threatening illness in people of all ages, there has been little progress in terms of patient education1,2.

To understand how pneumonia affects us, we should first understand what pneumonia is. Pneumonia is a lung infection that causes air sacs in the lungs to become inflamed and fill up with fluid, which makes it hard for the oxygen you breathe to enter your bloodstream3.

With that said, let’s now take a look at how much you truly know about pneumonia.

Photo credit: Cottonbro

1. Pneumonia can be caused by viruses or bacteria.

True.

Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the air we breathe4.

Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is one of the most common infectious diseases and a major cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide5. It is acquired through community settings, rather than in a hospital, nursing home, or other healthcare centers6. The bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae is one of the typical bacterial pathogens that cause CAP5.

2. Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death in Malaysia.

True.

As of 2020, the Malaysian Department of Statistics reported pneumonia to be the second leading cause of death in both men and women7.

3. Having trouble breathing is a common symptom of pneumonia.

True.

As the air sacs in your lungs fill up with fluid, it can cause symptoms such as a cough, fever, chills, and trouble breathing8.

Bacterial pneumonia can be more serious than other types of pneumonia, and its symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly. Symptoms might include high fevers with profuse sweating, rapidly increased breathing and pulse rate8. Your lips and nailbeds might also have a bluish colour due to a lack of oxygen in your blood. You might also experience confusion or delirium8.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule a consultation with a doctor now.

4. Pneumonia may cause a lower than normal temperature, instead of a fever.

True.

Symptoms of pneumonia may be different in certain populations. Older adults and people who have serious illnesses or weak immune systems may have lower than normal temperatures, or sudden changes in mental awareness8. 

5. Bacterial pneumonia can develop after a person has had a cold or the flu.

True.

Bacterial pneumonia can develop on its own or after you’ve had a cold or the flu. Respiratory diseases or viral infections can put people at greater risk of getting bacterial pneumonia9.

Risk factors for getting bacterial pneumonia include illness, recent surgery, being immunocompromised such as people with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), old age, or malnutrition. This is because when the body’s immune system is compromised, bacteria that live in healthy throats can move to the lungs, which causes pneumonia and systemic infection9.

6. People don’t need to be hospitalised for pneumonia.

False.

Severe pneumonia will be treated at the hospital, and patients may be given intravenous fluids and antibiotics, as well as oxygen therapy, or other breathing treatments10.

7. There are no vaccines for pneumonia.

False.

There are two vaccines for pneumonia that protect against pneumococcal pneumonia. These vaccines are conjugate and polysaccharide vaccines11.

While the vaccines can’t prevent every type of pneumonia, they can lower your chances of catching the disease12.

Photo credit: Alex Green

8. If you’ve already had pneumonia, you don’t need a vaccine for it.

False.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the pneumococcal vaccine for adults aged 65 years and older, children under 2 years old, and adults with chronic medical conditions or other risk factors11. These include those who:

     Have chronic heart, liver, and lung diseases11

     Are cigarette smokers11

     Suffer from diabetes11

     With Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection11

This recommendation also applies to those who have already had pneumonia before13.

9. Pneumonia vaccines can cause pneumonia.

False.

You cannot get pneumonia from the vaccine, as the shots only contain an extract of the pneumonia bacteria and not the actual bacteria which causes the illness.

Fewer than 1% of people who get the pneumonia vaccine experience mild side effects from the vaccine. These include swelling, soreness, or redness on the site of the vaccination, mild fever, fussiness or irritability, a loss of appetite, and sore muscles12.

10. Only people above the age of 65 should get the vaccine.

False.

Anybody can get pneumococcal disease, but some people have a higher risk of getting infected or suffering from complications than others14. These include:

     Anyone under the age of 2 years old or over 65 years of age14

     Those with chronic diseases such as chronic heart, liver and lung diseases11

     Those who live in long-term care facilities14

     Tobacco smokers14

Now, what’s next?

Now that you’ve gotten the facts about pneumonia, be sure to prioritise your health and wellbeing by finding the right immunisation plan for you, so you can protect yourself against pneumococcal pneumonia15.

For more information on pneumococcal vaccinations, or if you’re experiencing any symptoms listed above, reach out to a healthcare professional and book a doctor consultation today.

References:

1. Pneumonia is a major threat to public health – why don't we acknowledge the fact? | https://tinyurl.com/2p8833ym | Accessed on 8 March 2022
2. Pneumonia | https://tinyurl.com/34nedt9d | Accessed on 8 March 2022
3. Learn About Pneumonia | https://tinyurl.com/ujbzd8uy | Accessed on 8 March 2022
4. What Causes Pneumonia? | https://tinyurl.com/2p9ye4vb | Accessed on 8 March 2022
5. Community-Acquired Pneumonia (CAP) | https://tinyurl.com/ye7jecmt | Accessed on 8 March 2022
6. Community-Acquired Pneumonia in Adults | https://tinyurl.com/2p8974kb | Accessed on 8 March 2022
7. Statistics on Causes of Death, Malaysia, 2021 | https://tinyurl.com/ycs2t8kr | Accessed on 8 March 2022
8. Pneumonia Symptoms and Diagnosis | https://tinyurl.com/2p89a7d8 | Accessed on 8 March 2022
9. Pneumonia Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) | https://tinyurl.com/yeaytk7m | Accessed on 8 March 2022
10. Pneumonia Treatment and Recovery | https://tinyurl.com/r99ddwyr | Accessed on 8 March 2022
11. Pneumococcal Vaccination: Who and When to Vaccinate. | https://tinyurl.com/2p896enb | Accessed on 8 March 2022
12. Kelli Miller. Pneumonia Vaccine: Should I Get It? | https://tinyurl.com/4kkanujt | Accessed on 8 March 2022
13. Pneumonia Vaccine Quiz | https://tinyurl.com/5n8s3u8n | Accessed on 8 March 2022
14. Pneumococcal disease: Causes, how it spreads, and symptoms | https://tinyurl.com/3mpjuctm | Accessed on 8 March 2022
15. Arm Yourself, Doctor On Call | https://tinyurl.com/2ajfd6ym | Accessed on 6 April 2022

Disclaimer:

The health information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patient.

For Pfizer terms of use click here: Terms of Use | Pfizer – Breakthroughs That Change Patients’ Lives

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Health information brought to you by Pfizer Malaysia in partnership with DoctorOnCall.