Mr. Edison Lu Seng Chuin, Dietitian
9 November, 2022
Did you know that pneumonia is the second principal cause of death (11.4%) among major ethnic groups (Bumiputera, Chinese, and Indians) in Malaysia? (Department of Statistics Malaysia, 2019).
This airborne disease can be caused by microorganisms such as parasites, fungi, bacteria, and viruses. It usually happens to hospitalized patients, those with weak immunity, or those on a ventilator (like COVID-19 patients). Patients with pneumonia, especially older adults, are at higher risk of becoming malnourished (e.g., protein-calorie malnutrition), showing signs of health decline, and having poorer respiratory muscle contractility and endurance.
The standard treatment for pneumonia is the antibiotics administration. Amoxicillin dispersible tablets are the choice of antibiotic recommended (WHO, 2019). However, for those with severe syndromes like aspiration pneumonia, hospitalization and comprehensive pulmonary (lung) rehabilitation therapy will be necessary. Patients who are found to have aspirated should avoid taking any fluids or food with immediate tracheal suction. Yet, this maneuver may not protect the lungs from chemical injury, which often happens immediately. If a patient has been diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia, they should be treated with antibiotic therapy that includes coverage for anaerobic pathogens. In other words, this treatment will have a stronger effect and be able to fight against more relevant microorganisms.
In terms of nutritional interventions for pneumonia, the goal is to reduce the risk of malnutrition (due to increased nutritional requirements and loss of appetite) and improve lung function. Whether it is during hospitalization or after discharge, it is important for the patients to have adequate nutrients intake. Although eating well will not cure the disease, it can directly help with respiratory muscle function, immune system, and allows better protection against the pathogens in the lungs, thereby reducing the lung inflammation and preventing disease progression.