Seasonal changes bring with them various illnesses. Other than the usual cough and flu, viral infections breeze in with the onset of the winter. One of the infections caused by viruses is known to be Community Acquired Pneumonia (CAP).
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection caused in one or both lungs, occurring due to an infection which causes inflammation in the air sacs of the lungs, filled with fluid or pus. Bacteria, Fungi or other viruses cause these, making it difficult to breathe as it interrupts the Oxygen supply to the bloodstream.
Pneumonia can be life-threating especially to kids and people over 65yrs of age. Those people suffering from other chronic illness like lung disease, diabetes or immunocompromised condition are also susceptible as their immunity is considerably low.
Why is pneumonia prevalent during the winter?
Pneumonia can occur across season and is not bound to the winters alone. However, there is an increase in the cases during the cold season, as people are indoors for longer periods and in close contact with a number of bacteria, fungi or viruses.
Flu, viruses and bacteria are prone to be stable in the air when there is a drop in temperatures and the particles remain in the air in respiratory droplets.
Bacteria are present on our skin and are usually harmless; however during the cold and flu season, immunity decreases which weakens the system and even causes damage to the airways creating an opportunity for bacteria to cause infection in the lungs.
It is better to avoid public transport as one can catch a secondary infection when one comes in contact with others. Also, someone suffering from pneumonia is contagious. While commuting, it is advisable to observe cough hygiene; i.e. covering one’s nose and mouth to prevent the spread of infection.
Symptoms of pneumonia
- Chest pain
- High fever
- Shortness of breath
- Cough with prevalence of phlegm
- Sweating and shivering
Care and prevention
Ensuring special care during and after the flu season, it will help resist bacterial infection and prevent CAP. Following these few tips will help you avoid pneumonia this winter season.
Practicing good hygiene habits
Washing your hands often, especially before food consumption is a must. Bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia are often spread through contact; if you are in close contact with an infected person, ensure the necessary precautions are taken. Wash and rinse your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap. Keep a napkin available; make sure to sneeze into it.
Building a strong immune system
- Make sure to eat a nutritious diet in order to build your immunity, which will help you resist infections.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day; fresh fruit juices will also suffice.
- Keep away from alcohol if in contact with the virus; smoking is a complete no-no as it compromises the ability of the Lungs to combat infection.
- Avoid consumption of processed foods; eat home cooked and maintain a well-balanced diet. Make sure to exercise as it is critical in ensuring a fitter body.
Do not hesitate, get treated
If any of the above symptoms persist, visit your doctor at the earliest. Avoid self-medication as this can interfere in effective treatment or worsen the situation. Antipyretics like paracetamol can be taken.
However, any symptom worsening or lasting for more than 3 days should be addressed medically. If you are suffering from chronic illnesses like Diabetes, Blood Pressure, etc. you are more susceptible to infection as the immunity drops; follow the guidelines provided by your doctor.
Get a flu vaccine which is a yearly one; certain age groups can get a pneumonia vaccine, ask your medical expert. Also, for the prevention of pneumonia, certain vaccines are available. One should ask if they qualify for them and should be updated with the same.
The author is a Consultant Pulmonologist at Fortis Hospital, Mulund