World pneumonia day today, November 12th
Vasco Barreto, an internist and member of the SPMI
As winter and low temperatures approach, the number of cases of influenza and other respiratory infections increases. Some patients, such as the elderly or patients with chronic disease, may experience severe conditions, including pneumonia.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lung tissue, more specifically a lung parenchyma that reduces the exchange of gases at the level of the alveoli and respiratory bronchioles, causing respiratory distress.
This disease is developed in most cases by inhalation of bacteria and other microorganisms present in the throat and oral cavity. Rarely, it can also develop in contact with other patients with the transmission of infected particles or droplets, as well as in a hospital environment where there are several micro-organisms, some of which are resistant to antibiotics.
More common in the elderly and children, pneumonia affects other groups at risk, such as chronic patients (with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, HIV infection, kidney failure, immunosuppression, etc.), smokers, alcoholics and drug addicts.
The most common symptoms are difficulty breathing or difficulty breathing, chest pain, fever (in most cases elevated), chills, cough spread, headache, and muscles. Usually these complications occur quickly, with the possibility of being manifested at the same time.
It is important here to have a timely diagnosis, since all of these symptoms are common to other respiratory diseases. Except in very serious cases, the patient should begin treatment of primary care, where doctors can decide whether treatment can be started only on the basis of symptoms and physical examination, or chest radiographs that usually force the patient to go to a hospital.
In relation to the treatment of pneumonia, it focuses on the administration of antibiotics and the control of symptoms and general measures, such as rest, proper feeding and correct fluid intake. Depending on the severity of the patient's condition, he or she decides whether to be treated clinically or be accepted.
Even with the majority register of cases that are being treated clinically, pneumonia is still the main reason for hospitalization in our country. This is due to the severity of the clinical picture or the fragility of patients who often see that their chronic diseases are decompensated.
Pneumonia is possible and should be avoided by adopting a healthy lifestyle (including healthy diet, exercise, smoking cessation and lower alcohol consumption) and very important with vaccination, including a pneumococcal vaccine and an influenza vaccine. In a hospital environment, compliance with the regulations on infection control is essential (hand hygiene, use of protective equipment, respect for signs present in departments).
The Portuguese population still resists a seasonal vaccination against influenza. It is therefore crucial that you work to raise awareness, in particular at risk groups, of this potentially fatal disease and the importance of vaccination. Only this year, the National Health Service has 1.4 million doses of vaccine available in addition to vaccines that can be bought in prescription pharmacies.
The adoption of the above-mentioned preventive behavior is already a major step in reducing the number of cases of pneumonia, which the Portuguese Society of Internal Medicine wishes to continue to stand up to or promote population-driven initiatives or in the continuous training of internists and other health professionals.