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This is Why It Takes Weeks to Recover from Pneumonia

April 8, 2022 | Health information brought to you by Pfizer Malaysia in partnership with DoctorOnCall.

While pneumonia is treatable6 and preventable15, it can still be fatal for those who are affected. As of 2020, pneumonia remains the leading cause of death amongst Malaysian women and is the second principal cause of death among Malaysian men1.

Pneumonia can be broadly categorised by its three main causes: bacteria, viruses and fungi2.

Bacterial pneumonia can occur on its own or develop after you’ve had a viral cold or flu3. The most common type of bacterial pneumonia is called pneumococcal pneumonia3, which is caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae germ which lives in the upper respiratory tract4.

Viral pneumonia, where the virus invades the lungs and multiplies, is primarily caused by the influenza virus. Generally, there are no physical signs of lung tissue becoming filled with fluid.

Fungal pneumonia is most common in people with health problems or who have been exposed to fungi from contaminated soil and bird droppings. Those with weakened immune systems due to long-term use of immunosuppressing medicines or due to HIV/AIDS or cancer patients are also more susceptible to this type of pneumonia3.

Some signs and symptoms of pneumonia include coughs that produce a thick yellow, green, or rust-coloured sputum, a high fever of above 38ºC, chills, shortness of breath, chest pains that worsen when breathing, increased heart rate and a loss of appetite5.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, call your doctor to get treated immediately.


Pneumonia recovery periods

Groups of people who may be more likely to have complications from pneumonia are older adults or very young children, people whose immune system does not work well and those with preexisting conditions such as diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver6.

Some people feel better and are able to return to their normal routines within a week6. For others, it can take up to six months or more to fully regain their strength7.

This is due to the detritus (organic decomposition) caused by a lung infection, which is hard to clear9.  While the antibiotics prescribed by doctors can kill the bacteria causing the infection, the defence produced by your body to fight the bacteria – mucus or sputum – is left behind.

While recovery looks different for everyone, most symptoms should be gone upon reaching the 3-month mark, though you may still feel tired7.

There is no medical explanation for lingering fatigue and tiredness. However, it has been theorised that this is due to your body diverting energy to the immune system in order to fight off the infection8,9.


Don’t rush your recovery

Photo credit: Castorly Stock @ Pexels

If you’ve been diagnosed with pneumonia, here are a few vital steps to ensure a full and proper recovery.

1.     Finish your antibiotics course

This is crucial to killing off the cause of your infection once and for all. It also ensures you’re non-contagious and do not risk passing pneumonia to others6,10.

2.     Alleviate your symptoms

Control pneumonia side effects or symptoms such as a fever with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs6.

3.     Drink lots of fluids

These will help loosen secretions and bring up phlegm to clear your airways6.

4.     Warm yourself up

Drink warm beverages, take steamy baths and use a humidifier to help open up your airways to ease your breathing11.

5.     Get lots of rest

Be patient with your recovery. As you might have to stay in bed, try to get as much help as you can with meal preparation or household chores until you are feeling stronger. Upon regaining some strength, don’t overexert yourself with high-intensity activities6,7.

6.  Practice breathing techniques

Breathing exercises, such as pursed-lip breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, can help strengthen your lungs and increase oxygen levels12, 13.

7.     Stay away from smoke

This includes smoking and secondhand smoke. If you are a smoker and are having trouble staying smoke-free during your recovery, reach out to your doctor and let them know14.

Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska @ Pexels

Prevention is better than cure

Pneumococcal vaccines can protect us against serious and potentially fatal pneumococcal infections15.

Though treatment for these infections might be available, vaccinations remain the most cost-effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones against pneumococcal disease16.

Aside from this, taking care of your overall hygiene is essential in preventing pneumonia. Remember to wash your hands frequently with warm and soapy water, and be conscious of your general health through maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise and adequate rest17.

Conclusion

It is necessary to ensure all the proper steps are taken in preventing the spread of pneumonia.

People from groups of higher risk of contracting pneumonia should receive the proper vaccinations to ensure their safety. If you’re above the age of 65 years old, a smoker, or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, or cardiovascular diseases, you should consult your doctor about reducing the risk of pneumonia through relevant vaccinations18.

For more information on getting vaccinated to prevent the spread of pneumonia, reach out to a healthcare professional to learn more.

References:​

  1. Statistics on Cause of Death, Malaysia, 2020 | https://tinyurl.com/67wwab2z | Accessed on 1 Nov 2021
  2. Causes of Pneumonia, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention | https://tinyurl.com/8hc4yh7p | Accessed on 2 Nov 2021
  3. What Causes Pneumonia, American Lung Association | https://tinyurl.com/5bpuneta | Accessed on 2 Nov 2021
  4. Serotype Distribution of Invasive, Non-Invasive and Carried Streptococcus pneumoniae in Malaysia | https://tinyurl.com/547wfyws | Accessed on 1 Nov 2021
  5. Pneumonia, Portal Rasmi MyHEALTH Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia | https://tinyurl.com/p7pkveak | Accessed on 1 Nov 2021
  6. Pneumonia Treatment & Recovery, American Lung Association | https://tinyurl.com/s4p3tun4 | Accessed on 2 Nov 2021
  7. Recovery From Pneumonia, British Lung Foundation | https://tinyurl.com/4sse2zy6 | Accessed on 1 Nov 2021
  8. Pneumonia’s Toll, Gunk-Filled Lungs, Take Time To Clear | https://tinyurl.com/bncf5s39 | Accessed on 2 Nov 2021
  9. Why Does It Take So Long To Recover from Pneumonia, The Washington Post | https://tinyurl.com/6hacxpp9 | Accessed on 1 Nov 2021
  10. Pneumonia Symptoms, Treatment, Vaccine & Causes | https://tinyurl.com/ymjbf3nv | Accessed on 2 Nov 2021
  11. Can Pneumonia Go Away Without Treatment? | https://tinyurl.com/2eeest6u | Accessed on 2 Nov 2021
  12. How to Return to Exercise After Pneumonia, Livestrong |https://tinyurl.com/vvnepm62 | Accessed on 2 Nov 2021
  13. Breathing Exercises to Increase Lung Capacity, Livestrong | https://tinyurl.com/4vzenjvs | Accessed on 2 Nov 2021
  14. Pneumonia: Care Instructions | https://tinyurl.com/54kfpkce | Accessed on 2 Nov 2021
  15. Pneumococcal Vaccine Overview | https://tinyurl.com/2p8hash9 | Accessed on 8 Nov 2021
  16. Pneumococcal Vaccine, Doctor on Call | https://tinyurl.com/2fncy5mk | Accessed on 2 Nov 2021
  17. How to Prevent Pneumonia: Vaccine, Other Tips & More | https://tinyurl.com/6v68rkss | Accessed on 8 Nov 2021

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.