Monday, September 24, 2012

Cough, Hack, Wheeze! A Guide to Surviving Pneumonia

Thanks for all the comments and emails sent my way during my recent hiatus from blogging. It makes a girl feel loved when she is missed. :)

The reason for my long absence is that I have been so sick that I have hardly been able to drag myself out of bed. I think I am finally on my way back to health and now I can sit down at my computer and blog about it.

My story

It all started the day after a big family wedding. I woke up exhausted and sore but attributed it to the fact that  I had spent the previous day running around in high heels while wrangling my children, all four of whom were members of the bridal party. As the day went on, my muscle aches increased and I began experiencing a vicious cycle of fever and chills.

The next day I had more of the same symptoms, but with the addition of a tight feeling in my chest. I got  noticeably winded after completing routine tasks.  Four days later my fever had finally broken, but I was still experiencing shortness of breath. Hubby Dear is an MD and had wanted me to get a chest X-ray to rule out pneumonia by about day two of my illness. After four days of misery, I finally listened to him and got an X-ray taken. The verdict: I did indeed have a bad case of bacterial pneumonia.

A chest X-ray showing pneumonia
Image from

Since my pneumonia was bacterial in origin, antibiotics were indicated. I was prescribed a Z-pack (azithromycin). I started to feel better and by the time I finished the last dose of the antibiotic, I would say that I was at about 90% of normal. Unfortunately, my coughing and shortness of breath started to increase again over the next week. I was then prescribed another antibiotic, Levaquin (levofloxacin). I'm on day two of this round of antibiotics and I really hope this finally kills off all the baddies that are making me miserable!

Pneumonia is not for wimps 

If you look at the leading causes of death for Americans 100 years ago, you'll find that pneumonia and influenza ranked at the very top of the list. Having experienced pneumonia, I believe it. Here's what you need to know about it should you face pneumonia in a SHTF scenario.  

What is pneumonia?

Simply put, pneumonia is a lung infection. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or even dust or chemicals you breathe in. Anyone can get it, but it is very commonly acquired when your body's defenses are low, such as after you get a cold or the flu. We believe that I came down with the flu and that I caught pneumonia as a secondary infection.

Although anyone can get it, some people are more at risk of pneumonia. If you smoke, are debilitated, have existing lung conditions, suffer from an autoimmune disease, or are recovering from surgery, you are at risk.

Diagnosing pneumonia

Hubby Dear suspected that I had pneumonia based on the physical symptoms I described above as well as the way they presented. There had also been a rash of young, healthy people in our area coming down with sudden onset pneumonia. The tell-tale sign was when he listened to my lungs. I call it "Rice Krispie lungs" - they are continuously snapping, crackling, and popping.

A chest X-ray is an important tool for diagnosis. Not only does it confirm that the patient is suffering from pneumonia, but it also shows whether the pneumonia is bacterial or viral in origin. Obviously in  TEOTWAWKI, you may not be able to obtain a chest X-ray.

How to treat pneumonia

If your pneumonia is bacterial in origin, you're going to need to have antibiotics to treat it. You should be stockpiling a variety of antibiotics, either via prescription from a sympathetic doctor or with fish antibiotics. Here's some helpful links about fish antibiotics you might want to check out:

As my experience attests, not all antibiotics will work for every infection. You should have a variety on hand in case the first kind doesn't do the trick.

Otherwise, the treatment for pneumonia is pretty simple.
  • Rest. You need to have someone on hand to help with chores, children, etc. My bout with pneumonia confirmed for me the necessity of having a group of like-minded people that you can trust to help in times of need. I was flat on my back, unable to cook, clean, or even do my chicken chores. And the thing about pneumonia is that it commonly can take people up to a month to fully recover. 
  • Take medications like Advil or Tylenol to control your fever. 
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Rest. Did I mention that?   

My recommendations for you: 

  • Consider getting the flu shot every year. Since many cases of pneumonia develop after a person has the flu, preventing the flu will prevent pneumonia. Every member of my family gets the flu shot - except me since I am allergic to it. I'm the one who got pneumonia. Coincidence? 
  • There is a pneumonia vaccine for young children and adults in certain risk groups. Read about it here:
  • Start a (legal) stockpile of antibiotics and learn how to use them properly. 
  • If you smoke, stop! Smoking is a risk factor for pneumonia and pretty much every other disease out there.
  • Remember that pneumonia and influenza were top killers 100 years ago. If we experience a massive societal disruption, I expect they will become so again. 

Wheezingly yours,