People onboard are prone to several diseases and health hazards due to the nature of their work, change in climatic conditions – since they are visiting many different ports around the globe – type of cargo carried, working hours and materials being handled. Among many, pneumonia can be an infectious disease for seafarers during their service.
What pneumonia is
Pneumonia is a respiratory infection due to the presence and activity of pathogenic microbial agents in one or both lungs. Namely, it can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi and causes inflammation in the air sacs in the lungs, which are called alveoli. The alveoli fill with fluid or pus, making it difficult to breathe.
Common pneumonia symptoms
- Chest pain when you breathe or cough
- Cough that produces phlegm or mucus
- Fatigue and loss of appetite
- Fever, sweating, and chills
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
Pneumonia can be prevented by immunization, adequate nutrition, and by addressing environmental factors. Pneumonia caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics. Overall, treatment depends on the type, age, and seafarers’ health condition. The goals of treatment are to cure the infection and prevent complications.
When there is need for antibiotics treatment, it is important to take all the antibiotic until it is gone, even though seafarer will probably start to feel better in a couple of days. If antibiotic treatment stops, there is the risk of having the infection make its appearance again, and increase the chances that the germs will be resistant to treatment in the future.
Typical antibiotics do not work against viruses. If seafarer is under viral pneumonia, an antiviral medication is to be applied. Sometimes, though, symptom management and rest are all that is needed.
Most people can manage their symptoms such as fever and cough by following these steps:
- Control fever with aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen), or acetaminophen.
- Drink plenty of fluids to help loosen secretions and bring up phlegm.
- Do not take cough medicines without first talking to medical officer or telemedical service. Coughing is one way body works to get rid of an infection. As cough may prevent from getting rest additional treatment may be required to relief.
- Drink warm beverages, take steamy baths and use a humidifier to help open airways and ease breathing.
- Stay away from smoke to let lungs heal. Smoking creates additional problems during recovery period and should be avoided.
- Get lots of rest. Seafarer may need to stay in bed for a while.
- If pneumonia is severe a shore hospital treatment is to be considered.
Recovering from Pneumonia
It may take time to recover from pneumonia. Some people feel better and are able to return to their normal routines within a week. For other people, it can take a month or more. Most people continue to feel tired for about a month. Adequate rest is important to maintain progress toward full recovery and to avoid relapse.