Pneumonia and COPD
If a person with COPD gets pneumonia, the result can be an endless spiral of lung infections that can accelerate the loss of lung functioning. By itself, pneumonia is actually a very treatable condition. More than 3 million Americans suffer from this bacterial lung disease each year, and most people who get treatment make full recoveries. However, those who fail to get treatment face a much higher mortality rate -- somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 percent. Likewise, people who have COPD and are diagnosed with pneumonia may also face an uphill battle unless the receive treatment for their conditions immediately.
People who have weakened immune systems face a heightened risk of getting pneumonia, which is a red flag for people with COPD. The symptoms of COPD can leave people feeling fatigued and worn out, which can strain the body's defenses and increase the risk of illness. People who have chronic diseases such as COPD are often unable to resist infections bacterial diseases such as pneumonia when compared to people who are otherwise healthy.
"As a longtime addiction counselor, I can't begin to describe how many of my patients are completely unaware of the nature of lung damage and lung disease. When you damage your lungs from smoking, it's not like cutting your finger, where the cut heals in a few days. When you damage your lungs, the damage is permanent. In the end, the damage caused by cigarettes is not worth getting emphysema or COPD."
Kyle B., Modesto, CA
People who have COPD should be aware of the symptoms of pneumonia. Early detection of this condition can help bring a swift end to the condition while minimizing the possibility of health complications, which are prevalent in pneumonia patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Common signs and symptoms of pneumonia include:
- High fever
- Continued sweating
- Below normal body temperature
- Severe chills that cause shaking
- Severe headaches
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
Remember that the risk of developing pneumonia increases in patients who have COPD, which is why it's so important for patients to know the signs and symptoms of this condition. Some of the above symptoms are often mistaken for less serious conditions, but pneumonia symptoms can quickly get worse, often requiring emergency room visits or even overnight hospitalization. See your doctor or pulmonary health specialist if you feel you may be developing pneumonia or any other kind of respiratory condition. People who have been diagnosed with COPD can't be too careful.
How to Avoid Pneumonia
Taking steps to prevent pneumonia is very important for people who have COPD. The most basic way to prevent this condition is to get a pneumonia vaccination shot from your doctor. Getting a flu shot each year can also reduce your risks of pneumonia, because the flu is one of the most common causes of the condition.
Other ways people with COPD can prevent pneumonia include:
- Wash your hands often
- Avoid being around others who are sick
- Don't smoke
- See your doctor if you have any infections that last more than a few days
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy diet
- Vaccinate your children against diseases such as the Haemophilus influenzae
There is no simple method for treating pneumonia. People with severe bacterial lung infections will need medications to overcome their conditions. The most common medications for treating pneumonia symptoms include:
- Antibiotics: Many cases of pneumonia are caused by bacterial infections of the lungs. Bacterial infections almost always need to be treated with antibiotic medication. Especially in patients with COPD, taking medication to put an end to these infections is a necessary component of treatment.
- Antiviral medications: Antiviral medications are often recommended in patients who are diagnosed with viral pneumonia. These medications are not effective in people whose pneumonia is caused by bacteria.
- Cough medicines: Cough medications can help to open the airway and reduce the drainage of mucus in the throat. Especially in people with pneumonia or COPD -- both of which can cause severe coughing -- reducing the severity and frequency of coughing can relieve pain and help the patient relax.
- Fever reducers: Reducing the patient's fever can allow the body to heal while also making the patient more comfortable. Popular fever reducers include aspirin and ibuprofen, both of which can be purchased over the counter.