Pneumonia is a lung disorder caused by inflammation and accumulation of fluid in the microscopic air filled sacs. Pneumonia can be caused by bacterial, viral fungal and parasitic infections or due to chemical or physical injury to the lungs. The air filled sacs are responsible for absorbing oxygen from the atmosphere and reduced absorption often leads to shortness of breath. Greenish or yellow sputum, high fever accompanied by shaking chills, and sharp and stabbing chest pain are other common symptoms of the disease.
Immune system health plays an important role in the manifestation of some of the symptoms of viral and bacterial pneumonia. The symptoms of infectious pneumonia are often due to microorganisms that enter the lungs. On recognizing the invasion, the immune system releases neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, which engulf and kill the microorganisms. In the process they also release cytokines, proteins that serve to regulate the immune system. The cytokines cause a general activation of the immune system leading to fever, chills and fatigue.
Pneumonia is usually diagnosed by a physical examination, chest X-rays, blood tests and sputum cultures. Usually oral antibiotics, fluids, rest and home care are sufficient for subsidence of swelling or other signs of inflammation. In severe cases and when it occurs in old age, it may require hospitalization. The antibiotic alternative, however, is not used in cases of viral pneumonia, which usually resolves over time though there is an underlying risk of occurrence of secondary bacterial pneumonia.
All the antibiotics used to treat pneumonia have a high cure rate. The choice should ideally be finalized on basis of the causative microorganism and its known sensitivity. However, empirical treatment is started on the basis of physical examination only and well before the arrival of the laboratory results because even after extensive evaluation, it is difficult to arrive at the specific cause of pneumonia. Further treatments usually depend upon whether pneumonia is community acquired or hospital acquired and the results received from the laboratory.
Typical community acquired pneumonia is treated with amoxicillin and patients with known allergy to penicillin are given erythromycin. However, in parts of North America, where atypical community acquired pneumonia has become more common, azithromycin, clarithromycin, and fluoroquinolones like gemifloxacin, levofloxacin, and moxifloxacin are used as the first line of treatment.
Pneumonia causing bacteria are usually present in the throat. These bacteria multiply and travel to the lungs due to a weakened immune system, which is unable to control their multiplication. Such weakness may be caused by age, frequent illness, malnutrition and overuse of antibiotics. Herbs for immune system are a convenient, safe and natural method to spruce up the body’s first line of defense against disease.
Antibiotics should be used only when they are totally unavoidable. If antibiotics are frequently used even for ailments which usually disappear on their own or those that require only a wait and watch approach, the body becomes immune to them. Herbal antibiotics can play an effective role in managing and treating ailments that do not require immediate antibiotic treatment.
At present, most of the antibiotics work positively for complete resolution of pneumonia, but there is always a risk of the causative bacteria becoming resistant to them in future.