Pneumonia and Tuberculosis (TB)
Respiratory Tract Infections – types, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Things you need to know about pneumonia and tuberculosis

What is pneumonia? What is tuberculosis?

Pneumonia: It is an inflammatory infection of the air sacs in one or both lungs. Fluid or pus gets filled in the sacs leading to coughing with phlegm or pus. It may also cause symptoms like fever, chills and difficulty in breathing. It can be caused by many organisms like bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Tuberculosis: It is an infectious disease of the lungs caused by bacteria. The disease is communicable, that means it spreads from one person to another through droplets in cough or sneeze.

respiratory tract infection

What is Respiratory Tract Infection (RTI)?

What are the other types of Respiratory tract infection?

The respiratory system includes organs such as the nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea and the lungs. These organs together help in the breathing cycle. Infection caused in these organs is termed as respiratory tract infection (RTI). Depending on the area affected, RTI can be classified into upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI).

Upper respiratory tract infection– This affects the nose, sinus and throat. Most common upper respiratory tract infections include:

  • Common cold
  • Sinusitis
  • Tonsillitis

Lower respiratory tract infection– This affects the bronchi and lungs. The most common ones are:

  • Pneumonia: It is very common in children/babies and it is further classified into;
    • – Community-acquired pneumonia: Acquired outside of the hospital or healthcare facilities
    • – Hospital-acquired pneumonia/ Healthcare-acquired pneumonia: Acquired in the hospital while treating other illness
    • – Mostly acquired by patients under long-term health care such as dialysis
    • – Aspiration pneumonia: Acquired due to accidental passage of a large amount of material in the lungs through mouth or stomach
  • Tuberculosis (TB): A potentially serious infection that affects the lungs. This infection can be passed from one person to another. It is of two types:
    • – Latent TB: The bacteria remain confined to the individual patient and does not spread to others
    • – Active TB: Transmission of the bacteria to others is highly likely
  • Bronchitis

What are the symptoms of pneumonia and tuberculosis?

Your symptoms may differ depending on the type of germs affecting the body. Most commonly seen symptom for both pneumonia and tuberculosis is chest pain while coughing and fatigue. Other reported symptoms are:

  • Pneumonia
    • – Cough producing mucus
    • – Fever or lower than normal temperature
    • – Altered mental awareness (in adults)
    • – Shortness of breath
    • – Children with pneumonia will have a retraction in the chest during breathing
  • Tuberculosis
    • – Loss of appetite
    • – Coughing up blood
    • – Cough lasting more than 3 weeks
    • – Fever or chills
  • Respiratory diseases like common cold, influenza etc may be associated with symptoms like
    • – Cough
    • – Fever
    • – Nasal congestion
    • – Running nose
    • – Sore throat

What are the causes of pneumonia, tuberculosis and respiratory diseases?

Most of the respiratory infections can get transmitted through air that we breathe. Some of the causes are as follows:

  • Pneumonia – It is mainly caused by germs such as bacteria (eg Streptococcus), bacteria-like organisms (eg Mycoplasma pneumonia), virus and fungi, inhaled through the air to the lungs.
  • Tuberculosis – It is caused by the bacteria known as Mycobacterium, which gets transferred from one person to another in the form of micro-droplets while breathing.
  • Respiratory tract diseases like common cold, influenza etc may be viral in origin or due to bacteria, commonly Group A streptococcus.
lung infected with tuberculosis

Causes of Tuberculosis (TB)

What are the complications of pneumonia, tuberculosis and respiratory diseases?

Patients with pneumonia and tuberculosis may experience few complications such as:

  • Pneumonia
    • – Accumulation of fluid around the lungs
    • – Presence of bacteria in the blood (bacteremia)
    • – Difficulty in breathing
    • – Pus formation in the lungs
  • Tuberculosis
    • – Back and joint pain
    • – Liver and kidney disorder
    • – Meningitis
  • Respiratory diseases like common cold and influenza generally resolve on their own. However, in the case of immunocompromised patients or those in poor medical health, they may become lead to life-threatening complications.

How are respiratory diseases, pneumonia and tuberculosis diagnosed?

Pneumonia at times may require emergency care, especially in the case of children. In case of any visible sign or symptom, you should immediately seek medical care at a hospital having specialized doctors such as chest physician, pediatrician, a trained medical support staff and infrastructures like ICU, in-house diagnostics and pharmacy support. Both pneumonia and tuberculosis have similar diagnostic procedures. Respiratory diseases may be diagnosed by your physician or pediatrician by:

respiratory diseases diagnosed

How are respiratory diseases – pneumonia and tuberculosis diagnosed?

  • Medical History
  • Physical examination like auscultation
  • Tests
    • – Blood test
    • – Imaging test
      • * Chest X-ray
      • * Computerised tomography (CT) scan
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Sputum test

How are pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other respiratory diseases treated?

Depending on the disease condition, age and overall health status, treatment can either be done at home or you may need hospitalization. Treatment for pneumonia and tuberculosis is done with medications. Diseases like common cold and influenza may require only symptomatic treatment. Below is the list of medications used for the treatment:

  • Pneumonia
    • – Antibiotics
    • – Pain relievers
    • – Cough suppressants
  • Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis treatment takes a longer duration of time between six to nine months. Antibiotics are the primary line of treatment for tuberculosis. Depending on the type of tuberculosis (latent or active), one or a combination of antibiotics are given.
  • Respiratory diseases like influenza may be treated with nasal decongestants, cough syrup and medication for fever.

How can respiratory diseases, pneumonia and tuberculosis be prevented?

Some of the preventive measures that can be adopted include:

  • Pneumonia
    • – Avoid too much of smoking and alcoholic drink
    • – Avoid excessive soaking in the rain
    • – Take a healthy, nutritious diet
    • – Vaccination for children
  • Tuberculosis
    • – Isolation of an infected patient (in case of an active TB)
    • – Keep the mouth covered with a mask
    • – Maintain your surroundings clean and well ventilated
  • Respiratory diseases like influenza:
    • – Avoid direct contact with a person suffering from the infection
    • – Keep mouth and nose covered in crowded places
    • – Flu shots as advised by your physician

To know more about respiratory diseases, pneumonia, and tuberculosis, you can request for a callback and our Pulmonologist will call you and answer all your queries.

  • Mayo Clinic. Pneumonia. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pneumonia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354204. Assessed on 27 March 2018.
  • Mayo Clinic. Tuberculosis. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tuberculosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351250. Assessed on 27 March 2018.
  • National Health Service. Respiratory tract infection. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/respiratory-tract-infection/.Assessed on 27 March 2018.

PKIDs Online. Pneumonia. Available at: http://www.pkids.org/diseases/pneumonia.html. Assessed on 27 March 2018.

“The content of this publication has been developed by a third party content provider who is clinicians and/or medical writers and/or experts. The information contained herein is for educational purpose only and we request you to please consult a Registered Medical Practitioner or Doctor before deciding the appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan.”


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