Pathogens such as bacteria, virus, fungi or parasites infect different parts of the body. When they infect the lungs, the organs get inflamed. And this condition is what is known as pneumonia. And when it occurs to both the lungs, it is simply known as 'bilateral pneumonia' or 'double pneumonia'. So most people may assume that this is more serious than when the infection affects only one lung. But the fact is, it is common for pneumonia to affect both the lungs. And so it does not mean that the person is twice as sick. Taking into account the statistics in the United States, nearly 3 million cases of pneumonia are registered, and most patients are diagnosed with the bilateral form. Also know that the symptoms, causes and treatment options are same for both the types.
Being aware of the symptoms makes way for an early treatment. The signs and symptoms depend on what has caused the condition. They can also be influenced by any underlying medical condition the person might already have. However, some symptoms which commonly occur in most patients may include:
- a fever over 38ºC (100.5ºF)
- breathing difficulty, especially when it is accompanied by chest pain
- the chest pain could also be caused due to coughing
- production of green or yellow phlegm while coughing
- profuse perspiration, could be accompanied by shaking chills
- fatigue, and muscle pain
- a racing heart rate
- sore throat, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
As mentioned earlier, the infection could be viral, bacterial or fungal by nature. In some cases, parasitic infection is also detected. Often, people develop pneumonia after they have had an infection such as cold or flu. To add to this, chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, asthma, and bronchitis to name a few, tend to weaken the immune system. And so people having any of these conditions, are more susceptible to contract bilateral or normal pneumonia.
# The treatment is driven by the cause of the condition, and the nature of the symptoms. If a viral infection is behind the pneumonia, then medicines are of no help. Patients are usually recommended to take rest and drink plenty of fluids, as antibiotics come of no use.
# If the causal agent is bacteria, then antibiotics are administered as the first line of treatment. However, treatment with antibiotics is not as easy as it may seem in black and white. Doctors must identify the particular strain of bacteria that has caused the condition, and then decide for the best antibiotic to eliminate it. That is why, if a patient's condition does not show any signs of improvement with an antibiotic, then he/she may be put on another antibiotic.
# And if the condition is a result of a fungal infection, then antifungal medications are prescribed.
# Symptomatic treatment is also required. For instance, drugs to reduce fever, or to manage cough may be prescribed. However, it is recommended to take cough medicine only if the coughing is interfering with sleep. Coughing helps get rid of sputum, which would be suppressed if cough medicine is used.
Apart from taking the prescribed medication, there are some self-care measures that can be practiced at home to manage the symptoms. Staying home and taking rest is necessary until symptoms improve. Pneumonia has a high tendency to recur. So if it is not certain that the infection is gone, then it is better to skip work or school. Equally important is drinking plenty of fluids including water.
This would help to loosen mucus, prevent dehydration and get rid of toxins from the body. While taking antibiotics, it is important to understand the need to complete the entire course of prescribed medication. If the drugs are stopped too early, the infection could strike back and in a worse manner than before. Needless to mention, keep a regular follow-up with a doctor. And, as far as prevention is concerned, simply inculcate good personal hygiene, shun smoking, and get vaccinated on time.