Vaccines to prevent pneumonia
- Vaccines are available that offer partial protection against pneumonia caused by
- The bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (only in children)
- Chickenpox (in children only)
- Pneumonia Treatment
- Antibiotics and, sometimes, antiviral, antifungal or antiparasitic drugs
Treatments to provide breathing support
During pneumonia, mucus and secretions need to be removed from the lungs, and those affected can benefit from deep breathing exercises. People with pneumonia who have shortness of breath or low oxygen levels in the blood are given oxygen, usually through a plastic tube in the nostrils (nasal cannula).
Although rest is a key component of treatment, complete bed rest can be harmful and the patient is recommended to move often, get out of bed and sit down.Nasal cannulaOften, in case of suspected bacterial pneumonia, antibiotic therapy is started, even before the responsible organism has been identified.
Early administration of antibiotics reduces the severity of the disease and the possibility of complications developing, which in some cases can even cause the patient to die.AntibioticsThe doctor chooses the antibiotic based on the most likely causative agent. Several factors can provide clues about the organism responsible for pneumonia:
The type of pneumonia (community acquired pneumonia, hospital acquired pneumonia, obstructive pneumonia, aspiration pneumonia)The age of the subjectWhether the subject’s immune system is functioning properly or not, or if the subject has another lung disease
Severity of pneumoniaUse of intravenous antibiotics within the past 90 days
Information on which organisms are prevalent in the local area and which antibiotics are able to kill themAny information available from diagnostic tests, such as the identification of specific bacteria in sputum cultures
In general, the doctor chooses an antibiotic with a “broad spectrum” activity, meaning that the antibiotic is effective against a wide range of microorganisms, even microorganisms resistant to antibiotics, in the following circumstances:If the person’s immune system is not functioning properly
If the person has hospital-acquired pneumonia or has other risk factors for developing pneumonia due to a microorganism resistant to certain antibiotics (for example, lives in a nursing home, is unable to carry out daily activities, and has recently received treatment with antibiotics)
Once the organism has been identified and its sensitivity to various antibiotics is known, it is possible to administer a different antibiotic later.
It should be noted that a “broad spectrum” antibiotic also kills normal bacteria that live in the intestine and can cause severe diarrhea that can be potentially fatal, a pathology defined as Clostridioides difficile-induced colitis or antibiotic-associated colitis.
Hence, a broad-spectrum antibiotic is used only in the circumstances described above. Instead, in subjects with less severe pneumonia and for those generally in good health, a “narrow spectrum” antibiotic is chosen, usually suitable for the most common microorganisms responsible for pneumonia.
Although these antibiotics also cause diarrhea, it occurs less frequently. These antibiotics are usually effective, and this approach reduces the risk of Clostridioides difficile-induced colitis, which is much more common with a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
Antiviral and antifungal drugs
Antibiotics are not effective for viral pneumonia. However, specific antiviral drugs are sometimes given if certain viral infections are suspected, such as the flu or chicken pox. For influenza, specific antiviral drugs (such as oseltamivir or zanamivir) can reduce the duration and severity of the disease if the subject starts taking them within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
However, when a person has developed influenza pneumonia, the doctor cannot be sure that antiviral drugs will help, but usually administers them anyway. Often, bacterial pneumonia can develop following a viral infection. In this case, the doctor prescribes antibiotics.In rare cases, the cause of pneumonia is a fungus or parasite and an antifungal or antiparasitic drug is given.Home treatment versus hospital treatment