Don't trivialize: Pneumonia can be fatal
Pneumonia is still a neglected hazard that can be fatal, according to health experts. According to health experts, the disease leads to around 35,000 deaths nationwide. The infectious disease is often recognized and treated late.
In case of cough with bloody sputum, see a doctor
With symptoms such as cough, fever and fatigue, one quickly thinks of a respiratory infection, but not necessarily pneumonia. But that's exactly what is so insidious about the disease. If the symptoms described are accompanied by chills or the cough is accompanied by a purulent or even bloody expectoration, a doctor should be consulted quickly. Because all of these are signs of pneumonia.
35,000 dead from pneumonia
As with most diseases, with pneumonia, the earlier treatment begins, the better. The question of how do I recognize pneumonia can have a life-saving meaning. Pneumonia is the most common fatal infectious disease in Western Europe.
Health experts estimate that around 35,000 people die of pneumonia every year in Germany alone. 680,000 people fall ill in this country every year, around 230,000 of them have to be treated in hospital.
People with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk
In a message from the dpa news agency, Prof. Tobias Welte from the German Society for Pneumology and Respiratory Medicine explained: "People with a weakened pneumonia are particularly at risk of developing pneumonia."
In many cases, it is preceded by an infection in the neck and throat area. "Pneumonia is largely triggered by bacteria, such as pneumococci, but also occasionally by viruses or other pathogens," says Welte.
Transmission by droplet infection
The causative agents of bacterial pneumonia are transmitted in most cases by droplet infection - when speaking, coughing or sneezing. However, not every pathogen automatically leads to pneumonia.
When the disease breaks out, the alveoli and sometimes the lung tissue are inflamed and swollen. The doctor can use a blood test and X-rays of the lungs to determine whether pneumonia is indeed present.
Adhere to the doctor's therapy plan
Pneumonia caused by bacteria is primarily treated with antibiotics. If there is no improvement within 24 hours after taking the preparation, the patient is usually prescribed other antibiotics.
"As a rule, the antibiotics have to be taken for five to seven days, depending on the doctor's prescription," explained Ursula Sellerberg of the Federal Chamber of Pharmacists in the dpa report. The doctor's therapy plan must be strictly adhered to, antibiotics must never be discontinued too early, even if the symptoms have subsided. "If you miss the medication too soon, you risk relapse," warned Sellerberg.
Cortisone for pneumonia
Also of interest in this context are findings that have emerged from long-term studies at Swiss hospitals. According to this, cortisone should help against pneumonia. The scientists reported in The Lancet magazine that pneumonia heals faster when antibiotics are supplemented with cortisone during therapy. When published last year, the researchers thought that their study would "change the treatment of pneumonia worldwide."
A pneumonia caused by viruses, however, cannot be influenced with medication. Here the therapy is limited to the relief of the symptoms. To prevent pneumonia, according to health experts, one should be vaccinated against pneumococci, the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia.
This protective measure is also highlighted in the revised vaccination recommendations of the Standing Vaccination Committee at the Robert Koch Institute (STIKO). In a communication from the RKI it says: "Pneumococci are the main cause of bacterial pneumonia in Europe. The STIKO estimates that more than 5,000 people in Germany die every year from the consequences of pneumococcal disease."
Prof. Welte explained: "This vaccination is recommended above all to people over 60, chronically ill and children up to the age of two." It is fundamentally important to strengthen the immune system. One of the things you should eat healthy - with lots of fruit and vegetables - is to exercise regularly and stop smoking. (ad)