Medication for Pneumonia

Pneumonia is basically an infection of the lungs which can be caused due to virus, bacteria, fungi, parasites and various microorganisms. The lungs are made up of thousands of bronchi which branch out into smaller sacs called alveoli. Every alveolus is covered with a fine network of capillaries where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide from the blood takes place.

In pneumonia, the alveoli get filled with pus and fluids or exudate. This does not allow exchange of gases and is also referred as “consolidation and collapse of lungs”.

Symptoms and Causes of Pneumonia

Pneumonia can affect anyone from any age group, but is more common in children of 4 years old or younger and elderly people as well. It can affect a person suddenly or gradually. Pneumonia can be cured in one week or 10 days with proper treatment course.

What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

The symptoms of the pneumonia vary depending on the causative agent, age and overall health of the person. They are similar to cold and flu symptoms, but the duration is longer. Some common symptoms are:

  • Fever, chills and sweating
  • Chest pain when coughing, production of thick sticky fluid on coughing
  • Headache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath, fatigue and muscle ache

Infants may not exhibit any sign of infection; whereas, elderly people might have changes in mental awareness.

What Causes Pneumonia?

As discussed, pneumonia can be caused due to various organisms. Cold and flu can also trigger pneumonia. In almost half of the cases, the cause is never found. The symptoms are different based on the organism causing it:

  • Bacteria: Bacteria can affect anyone but usually affects people who have low immunity or are recovering from illness, babies, elderly and alcoholics. Green or rust colored phlegm is usually seen in this case.
  • Mycoplasma: This is a type of bacteria and the pneumonia is milder; however, it takes longer to recover. White phlegm, nausea and vomiting are the usual symptoms.
  • Virus: Around 50% of pneumonia cases are said to be caused by viruses and the symptoms are similar to that of cold and flu.

Medications for Pneumonia

The treatment will be prescribed by the doctor depending on the cause and the form of pneumonia. Treatment will aim to get rid of the infection and to avoid further complications due to pneumonia.

Medications for Bacterial Pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia is the most common type and usually antibiotics are used to treat it. They have higher rate of cure and the type of antibiotic will depend on the various factors like age of the person, the symptoms, severity of the symptoms and whether hospitalization is required. It is important to inform the doctor about any known allergies and current medications before taking antibiotics.

Taking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids keeps the body hydrated and loosens up the mucus. Anti-fever medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) may also help you feel better.

Besides antibiotics, the other medications given are:

  • Bronchodilators: They help in keeping the air passages open and aid in breathing.
  • Expectorants: These are responsible in the thinning of the sputum or phlegm, which makes it easier to cough it up and spit it out. This also aids in breathing easily.
  • Antipyretic and pain medicine: These are used to reduce fever and to decrease pain.
  • Steroids: These are given to open the air passages and should be started or discontinued only after confirmation from the doctor.

Medications for Viral Pneumonia

The medications for treating viral pneumonia will change as antibiotics are not effective on viruses. A lot of rest and hydration is important in this type of pneumonia.

If viral pneumonia is suspected to have been caused by influenza virus, anti-flu medication is given within 36 hours of the symptoms appearing. Some medicines given are Amantadine, Rimantadine, Oseltamivir in the form of pills or capsules. Zanamivir is in powder form and inhaled so that it reaches the lungs directly.

Varicella pneumonia is a serious condition and treatment is to give acyclovir, either orally or intravenously. When it comes to respiratory syncytial virus, usually only symptoms need to be treated; when the situation is really severe, it can be treated with Ribavirin. Adenovirus and parainfluenza virus pneumonia treatment also involves relieving the symptoms.

Watch a video to learn more about the symptoms, causes and things to pay attention to in case of pneumonia: 

How to Manage Pneumonia at Home

Following certain home treatments can help to recover from pneumonia more easily:

  • Get adequate rest and take it easy when you get back to work or school.
  • Staying away from work till temperature returns to normal and coughing stops is also recommended.
  • Drinking fluids helps in loosening mucus in the lungs.
  • It is also necessary to complete the entire course of antibiotics so that the pneumonia does not recur. Incomplete medication can cause the bacteria to harbor and multiply.

Warning: Smoking causes lung damage and increases chances of lung infection like bacterial pneumonia. Prolonged alcohol intake also increases the risk of bacterial pneumonia.

When to See a Doctor

Doctor should be consulted when there is chest pain, fever of 102 F that stays persistently, increased coughing, coughing of pus and difficulty in breathing. It is essential to consult the doctor immediately if these symptoms are seen in children of 2 years old or younger, people older than 65 years old, individuals who have another underlying health condition or compromised immune system, in individuals who are undergoing chemotherapy or taking medicines which suppress the immune system. For people who have heart ailments or lung ailments, pneumonia can be life threatening.

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