LIFESTYLE
01/05/2014 08:07 BST | Updated 01/05/2014 16:59 BST

Bob Hoskins Dead: What Are The Causes And Symptoms Of Pneumonia?

In the early 1900s, pneumonia had overtaken tuberculosis as one of the leading causes of death, but since then, great strides have been made in medicine to cure the disease.

Sadly, it is still a disease that people succumb to, as is evidenced by the death of Bob Hoskins, who passed away a few days ago.

bob hoskins

But what is pneumonia?

According to the NHS website, "pneumonia is inflammation (swelling) of the tissue in one or both of your lungs. It is usually caused by an infection. At the end of the breathing tubes in your lungs are clusters of tiny air sacs. If you have pneumonia, these tiny sacs become inflamed and fill up with fluid."

Talking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, Bupa's chief medical officer Dr Paul Zollinger-Read revealed the causes.

“Bacteria, viruses and fungi can all cause pneumonia. Depending on what causes it and how severe it is, will determine how you’ll be treated. Pneumonia is actually one of the most common causes of death worldwide, and sadly is the single largest cause of death in children globally.

"Each year, it kills an estimated 1.1 million children under the age of five years. This is often in poverty stricken areas, were basic treatment is not always available. In older people, pneumonia is often the illness that kills them because of existing chronic disease they already have."

pneumonia

Although pneumonia may not seem as serious these days, for infants, young children and the elderly, it is. Adults above the age of 65 - Hoskins was 71 - who have a weakened immune system are also at risk.

“The symptoms," says Dr Zollinger-Read, "of pneumonia vary from mild to severe. They can include a high temperature, shaking chills, a cough with phlegm, shortness of breath and chest pain when you cough. These symptoms are often caused by much less serious illnesses, but it’s best to see your GP if you have them so you can get the right treatment.

“If you’re diagnosed with pneumonia, your treatment will depend on the type of pneumonia you have and how severe it is. But the main goal is to cure the infection and prevent any complications that could put your health or life in danger. Bacterial pneumonia is often treated with antibiotics and your symptoms should improve within two or three days. Antibiotics don't work if you have pneumonia that’s caused by a virus, so you may be prescribed an antiviral. Symptoms of viral pneumonia usually improve within one to three weeks."

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Are there methods of prevention for pneumonia?

“Smoking, regularly abusing alcohol and malnutrition all raise your risk of pneumonia," adds Dr Zollinger-Read. "Your risk also goes up if you've recently had a cold or the flu, or been exposed to certain chemicals or toxic fumes."

The NHS further adds: "Excessive and prolonged alcohol misuse is known to weaken your lungs' natural defences against infections, making you more vulnerable to pneumonia.

"One study found 45% of people admitted to hospital with pneumonia had an alcohol misuse problem. Alcohol misuse is defined as regularly drinking over the recommended weekly limits (21 units of alcohol for men and 14 units of alcohol for women)."

Sources:

  • Overview of pneumonia. The Merck Manuals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/lung_and_airway_disorders/pneumonia/overview_of_pneumonia.html, published April 2008

  • What Is Pneumonia? National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pnu/, published March 2011

  • Overview of pneumonia. The Merck Manuals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/lung_and_airway_disorders/pneumonia/overview_of_pneumonia.html, published April 2008