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Beware, pneumonia is not caused by cold

Claim: Pneumonia is caused by cold

Beware, pneumonia is not caused by cold

Our findings and experts reveal pneumonia is not caused by cold but the organisms that cause it thrive in cold environments. 

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Sometime in December 2021, my five-month-old got sick and was diagnosed with pneumonia and the first thing that came to my mind was “cold.”

Growing up, the few times I heard about pneumonia, it was always associated with cold, hence my thought. 

“But I have not exposed her to cold so how come?” This was one of the many questions running through my mind so I asked the doctor why my daughter had pneumonia when she had not been exposed to cold. 

The doctor after a good laugh explained pneumonia is not caused by a cold but thrives during cold seasons or environments. 

While this abated the “mum guilt,” it left me with more questions, like what then causes pneumonia? and how can it be prevented, diagnosed and treated?

This article will answer some of these questions and more. 

Pneumonia, its causes and types

Pneumonia is an infection caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi in one or both lungs. 

This infection leads to inflammation in the air sacs of the lungs (alveoli). The filling of the alveoli with fluid or pus makes it difficult to breathe.

There are over 30 different causes of pneumonia but they have been grouped into four types; bacterial, viral, mycoplasma and other pneumonia. 

Bacterial pneumonia

This type of pneumonia is caused by different bacteria with Streptococcus pneumoniae as the most common. This usually occurs when the body is weakened by poor nutrition, old age, impaired immunity or illness, allowing the bacteria to work their way into the lungs. 

This type of pneumonia can affect all ages, but people who abuse alcohol, smoke cigarettes,  are debilitated, or have recently had surgery, or have a respiratory disease or viral infection, or have a weakened immune system are at higher risk. 

Viral pneumonia

This type is caused by various viruses, including the flu (influenza). It is responsible for about one-third of all pneumonia cases. 

While many cases of viral pneumonia clear up on their own within a few weeks, severe cases can be life-threatening. 

NOTE: You may be more likely to get bacterial pneumonia if you have viral pneumonia.

Mycoplasma pneumonia

This type is referred to as atypical pneumonia and has different symptoms and physical signs. 

 It is caused by the bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Generally, it causes mild, widespread pneumonia that affects all age groups.

Others

Other less common pneumonia may be caused by other infections including fungi.

Symptoms of pneumonia 

The symptoms of pneumonia vary depending on the type/cause. 

Symptoms of bacterial pneumonia include bluish colour to lips and fingernails, confused mental state or delirium (especially in older people), cough that produces green, yellow, or bloody mucus, fever, heavy sweating, loss of appetite, low energy and extreme tiredness, rapid breathing, rapid pulse, shaking chills, sharp or stabbing chest pain that is worse with deep breathing or coughing, and shortness of breath that gets worse with activity.

For viral pneumonia, early signs are the same as those of bacterial pneumonia but may be followed by headache, increasing shortness of breath, muscle pain, weakness, and worsening cough.

Mycoplasma pneumonia symptoms differ and include a severe cough that may produce mucus.

How is Pneumonia diagnosed?

A person’s recent health history such as a recent surgery, a cold, or travel exposure, and extent of the illness are usually taken into consideration when diagnosing pneumonia.  Through history and physical exams, pneumonia is diagnosed. Some tests done to confirm diagnoses include chest X-ray, blood tests, sputum culture, pulse oximetry, chest CT scan, bronchoscopy, and pleural fluid culture. 

Does Pneumonia affect only children?

No! Pneumonia can affect anyone from the young to the old but some groups are at higher risk. These groups include adults who are 65 years old and older, children below two years, people with certain medical conditions, and people that smoke. 

Experts opinion 

A consultant and the head of the paediatrics department, Garki Hospital Abuja, Kayode Alabi, said pneumonia is not caused by cold. 

According to him, many organisms like bacteria, viruses, and fungi are responsible for pneumonia. 

“Cold is not a cause of pneumonia although people still say it’s a cause. However, it is not the cause.

The only relationship cold has with pneumonia is that the common organisms causing pneumonia thrive well during the cold weather to cause cough, catarrh and sneezing.”

Doctor Jeremiah Agim,  a gynaecologist and senior registrar at the National Hospital Abuja also agrees with Mr Alabi. He explained that pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.

“Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by microorganisms; bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Individuals at risk include; immunosuppressed persons ( HIV, cancer, organ transplant, steroid medication, diabetics) and at extremes of age,” he said. 

He added that individuals at risk are people with low immunity, like persons with HIV or cancer, and very old persons.

Conclusion

Our findings and experts reveal pneumonia is not caused by cold but the organisms that cause it thrive in cold environments. 

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