How is Pneumonia caused?

According to Our World in Data organisation “2.56 million people worldwide died from pneumonia in 2017. Almost a third of all victims were children younger than 5 years and it is the leading cause of death for children under 5”.

A lot of people are intrigued as to why this virus causes pneumonia. Understanding it is the first step in fighting it so to understand this, we need to look at the lungs….

Everyone is born with two lungs unless they have a genetic disposition. Each lung has separate sections called lobes. As we breath, air passes in and out freely through your trachea (windpipe), then through your Bronchi and bronchioles and through to the alveoli (air sacs). 

Your airways and alveoli are smooth muscle and when you inhale each air sac expands and inflate and when you exhale, they contract and deflate. Your alveoli are surrounded by small blood capillaries. Oxygen from the air we breathe in passes into the capillaries and carbon dioxide from the blood passes out of capillaries into the alveoli, so our lungs can get rid of the carbon dioxide when we breathe out. 

Airways tend to catch most germs in the mucus that lines your trachea, bronchi and bronchioles. In healthy bodies hair like cilia line our tubes constantly pushing the mucus and germs out of your airways by coughing.

Normally cells of immune system attack viruses and germs that make it passed the mucus cilia and enter the alveoli. However, if your immune system is weakened, the virus can overwhelm the immune cells and the bronchioles and alveoli can become inflamed as your immune system attacks and fights the multiplying viruses. When the body fights an infection, it sends white blood cells to the infected and inflamed cells and while this will help fight the virus it can also make it harder for the lungs to pass oxygen into the bloodstream.  The inflammation can cause alveoli to fill with fluid and it’s this that makes it even more difficult for the body to get the Oxygen it needs.

During this entire process people can develop a variety of symptoms; some mild and some severe, Pneumonia being the worst. Pneumonia can develop in one lobe of your lungs referred to as lobar pneumonia or various areas in both lungs known as Bronchopneumonia.

Some people with mild pneumonia can manage the condition at home, however; people with underlying health problems have a high risk of being seriously unwell and may need to be admitted into hospital.

It is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. 


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