Questions about Pneumonia

What is Pneumonia?

An acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs, making it painful to breathe and limiting the oxygen intake, pneumonia is spread through coughing and sneezing.  Pneumonia is the single largest infectious cause of death in children all over the world.  Killing an estimated 922,000 children in 2015, pneumonia accounted for 15% of all deaths in children below 5 years of age.  Pneumonia affects humans of all ages; however, it can be prevented and treated with low –cost, low-tech medication and care.

What causes Pneumonia?

A number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi are responsible for causing pneumonia.  The most common of these are:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in children;
  • The second most common bacterial cause is Haemophilus influenza type b;
  • The most common viral cause is respiratory syncytial virus; and
  • Pneumocystis jiroveci is one of the most common causes in children infected with HIV.

What are the symptoms of Pneumonia?

Most of the symptoms of bacterial and viral pneumonia are very similar; however, viral pneumonia symptoms may be more in number than bacterial pneumonia.  People with difficulty in breathing, wheezing or coughing, with or without fever are diagnosed for pneumonia by the in-drawing of the lower chest wall during inhalation accompanied by rapid breathing.

How is Pneumonia transmitted?

Viruses and bacteria commonly found in the nose and throat can infect the lungs if inhaled.  Air-borne droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze can also spread pneumonia.  An infected mother can transmit pneumonia through blood, especially during and immediately after giving birth.  Ongoing research on the various pathogens and their methods of transmission is helping in the treatment and prevention of pneumonia.

What increases the risk of contracting Pneumonia?

A weakened immune system makes the individual stand a higher risk of contracting pneumonia.  Malnutrition in children is a primary cause of the infection, more so in infants who have not been breastfed.  Air pollution inside the house caused by wood or dung fires, cigarette smoke and overcrowded living areas all increase the chances of contracting pneumonia.

How is Pneumonia treated?

Treatment for pneumonia is both inexpensive and easy.  In the majority of cases, pneumonia is treated by administering oral antibiotics like amoxicillin.  However, in severe infections or where the patient is very weak, hospitalization may be required for the treatment.

How can Pneumonia be prevented?

Proper nutrition especially for children is the biggest factor in the prevention of pneumonia.  Breastfeeding infants for the first six months help build the child’s natural defenses, which is important in combating all types of illness including pneumonia.  Immunization and vaccinations against Hib, measles, whooping cough and pneumococcus are very effective in the treatment of pneumonia.  A clean and smoke free indoor environment, good hygiene and basic precautions in crowded places go a long way in combating this problem.


  1. Pneumococcal Disease Fact Sheet for the Media. (2015). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from National Foundation for Infectious Diseases:
  2. Pneumonia. (2015, November). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from World Health Organization:
  3. Pneumonia Fact Sheet. (2014). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from

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