Pneumonia is a common health condition that is really making the rounds lately due to the 24-hour news cycle surrounding the upcoming presidential election. With this increased visibility comes a lot of misinformation, as is quite common in a digital age where speed seems to matter more than accuracy for most people seeking information. So, what is pneumonia; how serious is it; and can you really catch pneumonia during the summer months?
Check out Dr. Momjian’s interview with KNX Radio as he goes in depth about Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia.
First of all, it’s important to realize that pneumonia is a condition that comes in a variety of forms and types. There is no singular condition we recognize as being simply “pneumonia,” but rather a set of conditions that cause the same symptoms, to which we give the umbrella term pneumonia. Simply put, pneumonia occurs when the tiny air sacs in your lungs become inflamed, resulting in symptoms such as:
Pneumonia can be caused by both a virus as well as bacteria — if the latter, the condition can be sometimes successfully treated with antibiotics (if appropriate). Viruses, on the other hand, do not respond to antibiotics and will need to be treated differently. Some estimates suggest that as much as 7% of the world’s population contracts pneumonia each year, amounting to hundreds of millions of cases.
As mentioned earlier, there are many different types of pneumonia out there, and many different circumstances under which it can be contracted. The seriousness will depend primarily on the type of pneumonia contracted, as well as the overall health of the individual who gets it. Pneumonia associated with exposure to a hospital or health care environment is typically more dangerous and/or severe than other kinds, owing to the hardiness of the strains able to survive in a hospital setting.
Some kinds of pneumonia are so mild that they are referred to as “walking pneumonia” (as in, you can have it and still be walking around and living your life in only a bit of discomfort). Other kinds of pneumonia can be quite severe, and death is one possible outcome of pneumonia depending on the risk factors involved. In fact, pneumonia was famously referred to in the 19th century as the “captain of the men of death.” In the elderly, pneumonia is especially serious, as it usually compounds existing health problems and puts a tremendous amount of stress on the person’s respiratory system.
Yes, you can absolutely contract pneumonia during the summer. In fact, some kinds of pneumonia are even more common during the summer. You might mentally associate pneumonia with the cold or the winter months, but as we’ve seen, seasonality doesn’t have much to do with — for instance — a viral infection.
Think of pneumonia as a chest cold that is one notch more serious than that affliction. In an otherwise healthy person, it usually won’t be a big deal. However, it’s always important to take risk factors and overall health into consideration when determining the course of treatment for any case of pneumonia.