World Pneumonia Day is celebrated today, November 12th
Vasco Barreto, internist and member of SPMI
Due to the winter and low-temperature approach, the number of flu and other respiratory infections is increasing. Some patients, such as the elderly or people with chronic diseases, may experience more severe conditions, including pneumonia.
Pneumonia is a lung tissue infection, more precisely lung parenchyma, which aggravate gas metabolism in the alveolar and respiratory bronchioles, causing respiratory distress.
In most cases, the disease develops by inhalation of bacteria and other microorganisms located in the rhizome and the mouth. Uncommonly, it may develop in the presence of other patients, transmission of contaminated particles or droplets, and in hospital environments where there are many micro-organisms, some of which are resistant to antibiotics.
More commonly, in elderly and pediatric patients, pneumonia is affected by other risk groups, such as chronic patients (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, HIV infection, renal failure, immunosuppression, etc.), smokers, alcoholics, and addicts.
The most common symptoms are difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain, fever (in most cases elevated), chills, coughing up with sprains and headaches, and muscle. Usually these complications arise quickly, with simultaneous expression.
This is where it is important to diagnose early, because all these symptoms are common to other respiratory diseases. Except in very serious cases, patients should begin by focusing on primary health care, where doctors can decide whether treatment can be initiated only on the basis of symptoms and physical examination, or chest radiography, which usually causes the patient to go to the hospital.
Regarding treatment of pneumonia, emphasis is placed on antibiotic use and symptom control as well as general measures such as relaxation, proper nutrition and proper fluid intake. Depending on the severity of the patient's condition, it is decided whether he will be treated in an outpatient setting or he will be admitted.
Even with the largest outpatient patient register, pneumonia is still the main reason for hospitalization in our country. This is due to the patient's clinical picture or the severity of the fragility, who often believes that their chronic diseases are not decompensated.
Pneumonia can and should be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle (including a healthy diet, physical activity, smoking cessation and reduced alcohol consumption) and is very important through vaccination, which includes the pneumococcal vaccine and influenza vaccine. In the hospital environment, it is important to follow the rules for controlling infection (hand hygiene, use of protective equipment, respect for signs in the departments).
There is still considerable resistance from the Portuguese population to seasonal flu vaccination. Therefore, it is important to work to increase the importance of these potentially lethal diseases and vaccinations, especially in risk groups. Only this year, the National Health Service has 1.4 million doses of vaccine to be administered, in addition to vaccines that can be purchased at prescription drug stores.
The adoption of the above-mentioned preventive behavior is already a major step in reducing the number of pneumonia cases that the Portuguese Internal Medicine Society wants to continue to favor or promote citizens' initiatives or to constantly train instructors and other healthcare professionals.