Close X
Get more out of
by joining the site for free
Free 17-point plan to great health
Twice weekly e-news bulletins
Access to our News, Forums and Blogs
Sign up for free and claim your
17-point plan to great health
Free 17-point plan to great health

Twice weekly e-news bulletins

Access to our News, Forums and Blogs

If you want to read our in-depth research articles or
have our amazing magazine delivered to your home
each month, then you have to pay.

Click here if you're interested
Helping you make better health choices

What Doctors Don't Tell You

In shops now or delivered to your home from only £3.50 an issue!

July 2020 (Vol. 5 Issue 5)

What is pneumonia?

About the author: 

What is pneumonia? image

Pneumonia is not a single disease entity

Pneumonia is not a single disease entity. It is a term used to describe a generalised inflammation of the lung that can be caused by a number of different infectious organisms, mostly a variety of bacteria such as Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, Haemophilus, Chlamydia and Mycoplasma, as well as several viruses, and certain fungi and protozoans.

The most common causal pathogen is Streptococcus pneumoniae (also known as 'pneumococcus'). These anaerobic (thriving without oxygen) bacteria are the cause of 80 per cent of cases of lobar pneumonia.

Staphylococcus aureus, bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people, can also trigger pneumonia. This is a particular problem in hospitals, where an antibiotic-resistant form of these bacteria - methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA - is now endemic.

The often fatal legionnaire's disease, or legionellosis, is a form of bacterial pneumonia caused by Legionella pneumophila, microorganisms that are ubiquitous in the environment. The disease can be caught from contaminated air-conditioning systems, or whirlpool or hot-spring spas (Lancet, 1996; 347: 494-9). Hot-spring spas can also be contaminated with other pneumonia-causing gram-negative bacteria (Epidemiol Infect, 1991; 107: 373-81).

Viral pneumonia, which can be caused by a simple cold, a bout of influenza or chickenpox infection, is generally less virulent.

But how do you know when you've got pneumonia, and not just a cold or flu?

First of all, pneumonia is nothing like a cold as it has no effects on the nose, so no nasal symptoms. But what symptoms it does produce are rather similar to those of influenza - chills, a high temperature and a sometimes bloody, sputum-laden cough.

However, the classic pneumonia symptom is a shortness of breath or unusually rapid breathing, caused by fluid collecting in and blocking the alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs. There may be pain in the chest and even stomach, too, and the nails may turn white. Getting a full diagnosis normally requires laboratory tests of the sputum and/or a chest X-ray.

Who is at risk of pneumonia? Anyone with heart disease (particularly congestive heart failure), diabetes or impaired immunity (such as people with AIDS or those undergoing chemotherapy) as well as heavy drinkers are particularly vulnerable. In hospital, any surgery to the chest can bring on the condition as can intensive care units (see main story). The very old, who may be on artificial feeding, are at risk of breathing in either food particles or throat bacteria, both of which can trigger pneumonia (Drugs Aging, 1994; 4: 21-33). Young children, particularly malnourished ones, are also at risk.

A disease of doctors image

A disease of doctors

You may also be interested in...

Support WDDTY

Help support us to hold the drugs companies, governments and the medical establishment accountable for what they do.


Latest Tweet


Since 1989, WDDTY has provided thousands of resources on how to beat asthma, arthritis, depression and many other chronic conditions..

Start by looking in our fully searchable database, active and friendly community forums and the latest health news.

Positive SSL Wildcard

Facebook Twitter

© 2010 - 2019 WDDTY Publishing Ltd.
All Rights Reserved