October is one of the busiest months for Dr. Ali Ghahary and other family physicians across Greater Vancouver and Canada. The seasons have changed and children are back to school, meaning cold and flu season is in full swing. As a result, more individuals are making appointments with their family doctor or are going to walk-in clinics – either for treatment or to get the flu shot.
While the common cold typically doesn’t need any treatment other than bed rest and over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or Advil, there are complications that can arise as a result of having a cold or flu virus, including bronchitis, asthma attacks, ear infections, sinus infections and pneumonia.
Pneumonia is a common complication of a respiratory infection that occurs when the airspaces in the lungs become inflamed.
Signs and symptoms of pneumonia include shortness of breath, chest pain while coughing or breathing, discoloured mucus (yellow or green in colour, or sometimes bloody), fever and chills, blue-ish fingernails or lips. Loss of appetite, headache, and fatigue are also common symptoms that are associated with pneumonia.
There are at least 30 different strains of pneumonia, though the most common types are bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia, and mycoplasma pneumonia.
Bacterial pneumonia is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is the most common bacterium that causes various types of respiratory infections. This kind of pneumonia can develop as a result of an already acquired illness, such as a cold, the flu or other respiratory condition, and can even be caused even poor nutrition. Bacterial pneumonia can affect people of all ages, but those who smoke, consume alcohol, or have a weakened immune system are at a much greater risk of developing it.
Viral pneumonia can also be caused by common illnesses, such as the flu, and is responsible for nearly half of all cases of pneumonia. If you happen to have viral pneumonia there is a high risk of it developing into bacterial pneumonia.
Mycoplasma pneumonia, also known as ‘Walking pneumonia, is an atypical form of pneumonia that is caused by the bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Walking pneumonia generally has much milder symptoms. It can be treated with antibiotics, but only if it is caused by bacteria.
In order to accurately diagnose pneumonia and provide patients with the best course of treatment, Dr. Ali Ghahary will use a device known as a stethoscope to listen to the patient’s chest. If any cracking, bubbling, or wheezing noises are heard upon examination, this may be indicative of pneumonia. For a definitive diagnosis, Dr. Ali Ghahary will then refer patients for medical imaging tests, such as an X-Ray or CT scan. These scans will show if there is any infection present in the lungs.
Treatment of pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia the patient has. In cases where the pneumonia is viral, it will usually get better on its own. However, if the patient has bacterial pneumonia, Dr. Ali Ghahary will prescribe a course of antibiotics to get rid of the infection and speed up the recovery process. Penicillin is typically the drug of choice for treating pneumonia. If you happen to be allergic to Penicillin, your physician will be able to prescribe an alternative antibiotic.
Along with antibiotics, Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends that patients increase their intake of fluids, get lots of rest, and take cough-relief and pain medication when needed.