Bronchopneumonia is a type of pneumonia. Pneumonia is an inflammation
of the lungs due to an infection caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi. The
infection causes inflammation in the alveoli in the lungs, causing the alveoli
to fill with pus or fluid. The alveoli are tiny air sacs.
There are two types of pneumonia. Lobar pneumonia affects one or
more sections, or lobes, of the lungs. Bronchopneumonia affects both lungs and
the bronchi. Bronchopneumonia can be mild or severe. Viral bronchopneumonia is less
Both forms of pneumonia are often the result of contact with
viruses and bacteria in your everyday routine. Most cases of bacterial
pneumonia are caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumonia. However,
it’s not uncommon for pneumonia to result from more than one type of bacteria.
Other possible culprits include:
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Haemophilus influenzae
- Klebsiella pneumoniae
The same viruses that cause colds and flus also cause most cases
of viral pneumonia.
According to the Mayo
Clinic, patients can often acquire very severe forms of pneumonia in
hospital settings. The pneumonia in hospital settings can be the result of
germs resistant to antibiotics.
Is at Risk?
Certain groups of people are more at risk for developing
bronchopneumonia. The risk factors include:
- being age 2 or younger
- being age 65 or older
- having a lung disease, such as cystic fibrosis,
asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- having HIV or AIDS
- having a weakened immune system due to chemotherapy
or the use of immunosuppressive drugs
- having a chronic disease, such as heart disease
- being on a ventilator
- being a smoker
- having a history of heavy alcohol use
- having trouble coughing
- having trouble swallowing
- being malnourished
Are the Symptoms?
Symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly. Viral
bronchopneumonia may begin with flu-like symptoms but become more severe in a
few days. Symptoms of bronchopneumonia include:
- a cough that brings up mucus
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- rapid breathing
- muscle aches
- confusion or delirium, especially in older
Your doctor will begin by conducting a physical exam. They may
take your temperature to look for a fever. Your doctor will also use a
stethoscope to listen to your lungs. They’re listening for a bubbling or
wheezing sound that’s common with this condition. Your doctor will also listen
to various places on your chest to identify areas where it’s harder to hear
your breathing, indicating the presence of bronchopneumonia.
Your doctor may diagnose you based on a physical exam. They may
also send you for tests to rule out other possible causes.
Your doctor may order a complete blood count (CBC) to look at the
number of white blood cells in your blood. An elevated number of white blood
cells may indicate a bacterial infection. Your doctor may also test your blood
to determine the virus, bacterium, or fungus causing the bronchopneumonia.
A chest X-ray is one of the best ways to diagnose this condition.
This test uses electromagnetic radiation to create a picture of the lungs and
chest. This allows your doctor to find areas affected by bronchopneumonia.
If you’re very ill, your doctor may order more tests to get
information about the severity of your illness and what’s causing the condition.
- A CT scan produces a picture similar to an X-ray
but in more detail. This will tell your doctor where the infection is in your
- A sputum culture tests a sample of mucus from
your lungs to determine the cause of the infection.
- A bronchoscopy involves putting a camera down
your throat to look at your bronchial tubes. This can determine if there are
other factors causing your bronchopneumonia.
- Finally, your doctor may order a pulse oximetry,
which involves putting a sensor on your finger. It measures the amount of
oxygen in your blood. The results of this test can tell your doctor the
severity of the infection and your ability to absorb oxygen.
Viral bronchopneumonia normally doesn’t require medical treatment
and improves on its own in one to two weeks. Antivirals can help reduce the
length of your illness and the severity of your symptoms.
If you have bacterial bronchopneumonia, your doctor will
prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics will destroy the bacteria causing the
infection. Most people feel better within one to three days after starting
antibiotics. It’s important that you finish your entire course of antibiotics
to prevent the infection from returning.
Your doctor may also suggest a fever reducer or cough medication
for both viral and bacterial bronchopneumonia. These medications can help
relieve your symptoms, but they won’t cure you.
Treatment at home to help relieve your symptoms includes:
- drinking plenty of warm fluids
- using a humidifier
- drinking plenty of water
You may need to go to the hospital if your infection is severe
and if you meet two or more of the following criteria:
- you’re over age 65
- your breathing is rapid
- your blood pressure drops
- you become confused
- you need breathing assistance
Treatment in the hospital may include intravenous (IV)
antibiotics. If your blood oxygen levels are low, you may receive oxygen
therapy to help your blood oxygen levels return to normal.
Vaccinations can be very helpful in preventing bronchopneumonia. An
annual flu shot can be helpful because influenza can indirectly cause pneumonia.
A pneumococcus vaccine is also available, and it’s effective for 5
years. This is suggested for individuals over the age of 65, individuals who live
in a long-term care facility, and individuals who are at increased risk for
developing bronchopneumonia. Children under age 2 can receive a pneumococcal
conjugate vaccine. The Mayo
Clinic states that doctors suggest this vaccine for children who are
between ages 2 and 5 and who are at risk for developing a pneumococcal disease
or who attend a childcare facility.
Simple care measures can reduce your risk of getting sick and developing
bronchopneumonia. These measures include:
- washing your hands regularly
- avoiding smoking
- not using alcohol heavily
- avoiding contact with sick individuals
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising, getting enough
rest, and eating a healthy diet will also help to prevent bronchopneumonia.