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Pneumonia is the condition created when a bacterial infection causes fluid to accumulate and begin to fill the lungs. Typically very painful, this condition can be fatal if not treated although, with medical treatment, recovery is almost a guarantee. Bacterial pneumonia symptoms include a cough accompanied by stabbing chest pains and oftentimes a greenish or yellow phlegm, in addition to high fever, chills, shortness of breath, and joint and muscle pain. Diagnosis of pneumonia resulting from bacterial infection is done by X-ray and testing of the coughed up phlegm.
Many parents are alarmed to realize the increasing number of elementary age cases, just among family and friends, of a variety known as viral pneumonia. When diagnosed, most parents are dumbfounded, because they had never heard of the disease prior to diagnosis. They are equally alarmed because the symptoms are much milder than bacterial pneumonia, leading to a delay in treatment.
Viral pneumonia is not nearly as serious as bacterial pneumonia, and seldom requires medical treatment except to verify that the condition is not something more serious. As most parents with school aged children today had a family member in their parents' age bracket who had died of pneumonia when a child, the term “pneumonia" still sends up red flags of panic. Bacterial pneumonia was the leading cause of death in children in the time of our parents' childhood because there was no known treatment. The discovery of antibiotics since that time has relegated a once deadly disease to an easily treatable condition.
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Causes of Viral Pneumonia
Highly contagious, viral pneumonia is unlike a bacterial infection as the pneumonia virus permeates the cells in order to reproduce. Typically, the virus is inhaled, thereby traveling to the lungs, where it attacks the cells lining the airways. The cells infected usually die, leading to lung damage caused by the body’s immune system, which responds by causing a chemical reaction that results in leaking of fluids into the air sacks of the lungs. Since viruses also make the body more susceptible to bacterial infection, viral pneumonia is often complicated by bacterial pneumonia.
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Treatments of Viral Pneumonia
Also unlike bacterial infection, viruses do not respond to antibiotics. When afflicted by a case of viral pneumonia, a patient will be ordered on bed rest, fluid replacement, and possible over the counter medications to loosen the chest and release the mucus that is congesting the lungs. In addition, the doctor may order a prescription of preventative antibiotics to reduce the likelihood of a piggyback bacterial infection.
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Vaccination for Viral Pneumonia
While there is a vaccination to prevent the onset of pneumonia, it does not work on the viral pneumonia variety. However, since the vaccination is formulated to prevent 88% of the bacterial forms of pneumonia, it is a useful tool in the prevention of further complications arising from viral pneumonia. An injection to prevent bacterial pneumonia lasts for 10 years and is recommended for the elderly, as well as children.
While viral pneumonia cases are on the rise, it is not as serious as bacterial pneumonia, and cannot be treated with antibiotics. The best treatment for viral pneumonia is to stay in bed and use over the counter medication to loosen phlegm in the lungs until fully healthy.