I recently endured a week suffering with fevers, chills, and headaches with pressure originating behind my right eye. With no other symptoms, I assumed I was viral and remained optimistic my immune system would prevail. When my energy level waned, then failed, my husband brought me to the E.R.
When asked about my symptoms on arrival at the Emergency Room check in desk, I was immediately tossed a mask before witnessing the medical professionals within earshot of my story ducking for cover, while donning masks of their own. One brave soul, attempting to hide the panic in his voice, asked if I had been out of the country, perhaps anywhere near Africa. With the last of my energy, I assured them I hadn’t left my own zip code.
I’m a writer – we are solitary creatures by nature – I’m normally home writing with my dog. I suddenly had visions that my beagle, like the dog of the health care worker in Spain who contracted Ebola so they euthanized the dog – could be in danger! Run, Pennington, run!
Someone pointed to a free standing computer and instructed me to put in my information. The moment I hit complete, a person was dispatched to sterilize anything I touched. (I believe it was a person behind all the protection.) I was then taken to a glass room; probed, prodded, x-rayed, and informed I was suffering from Pneumonia.
If I hadn’t already been flat on my back, you could have knocked me over with a feather! Pneumonia? I haven’t even had a cold in ten years. I can’t remember the last time I sneezed and I’ve never had the flu. I couldn’t begin to give them a specimen because I wasn’t coughing. Yet, there it was on my x-ray. And there I was spending a week in the hospital on IV antibiotics.
How did this happen? Why didn’t I know? As soon as I could keep my eyes open for more than ten minutes at a time, I went into research mode.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, many germs can cause pneumonia including different kinds of bacteria, viruses, and not as common fungi. Most of the time our bodies filter the germs we breath to protect the lungs from infection. Our immune systems, the shape of our noses and throats, and the ability to cough, as well as the fine hair-like structures (called cilia) help to stop germs from reaching our lungs. But sometimes, due to a compromised immune system, or a super motivated germ, our bodies just fail to filter the germ we breathed.
When the germ reaches our lungs, our immune system will send cells to attack. These cells cause the air sacs (alveoli) to become red and inflamed, filling them with fluid and pus (yuck). This is what causes the symptoms of Pneumonia.
The symptoms of Pneumonia can be generally mild and appear over a period of 1 to 3 weeks; to severe requiring hospitalization. Some common symptoms are:
* fever – may be high
* chills/excessive sweating
* cough – can be dry or produce green mucus
* headache/eye pain or soreness
* sore throat
* chest pain/fast heartbeat
* secondary fever
To make it even more complicated, there are different types of Pneumonia. I’ll make it short and as tension-free as possible:
The most common type of Pneumonia is Community-acquired pneumonia known as CAP, which is acquired outside of hospitals or other health care settings. Most people get it by breathing in germs that live in your mouth, nose and throat – especially while you sleep! There’s one more thing to keep you awake, all you insomniacs.
Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia, or HAP, is acquired during a hospital stay for another illness. Scary, scary thought.
You can acquire Health Care-Associated Pneumonia from a nursing home, dialysis center, outpatient clinic… you get the drift.
Aspiration Pneumonia happens if you inhale food, drink, vomit, or saliva from your mouth into your lungs. This may happen if something disturbs your normal gag reflex such as a brain injury, swallowing problem, or excessive alcohol. It can cause pus to form a cavity in your lung called a lung abscess. Remember your mother telling you not to talk with food in your mouth because you could choke? The alcohol is self-explanatory to most of us – unfortunately.
Atypical Pneumonia is what Dr. Sanchez believes I have. It is a type of CAP and can be caused by several types of bacteria – legionella pneumophilla, mycoplasma pneumonia, and Chlamydophila pneumonia. It can also be passed from person to person.
So, who is at risk? Research tells me if you’re under 2 or over 65, have lung disease or another serious disease such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis, diabetes, heart failure, sickle cell anemia, going through chemo, had a stroke, or me – relatively healthy sitting in my home with my dog writing. Sounds like just about all of us…..
According to Knowpneumonia.com, there are 5 things you can do to stay healthy over 50, and give yourself a fighting chance.
1. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains in your healthy diet.
2. Stay physically active.
3. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly.
4. See your doctor regularly.
5. Keep up with appropriate vaccinations.
Virgil said, “The greatest wealth is health.”
I wish you all well. Leave me a comment and tell me your story.
From The Point – Always Lori Flynn