The incidence of pneumonia during cold months in the Philippines (January-February) could increase. Reports on TV already indicated deaths in Baguio City, Benguet, Cagayan and even in Ilocos Norte (where I live). Pneumonia is a respiratory disease which often affects children and the elderly. The cold months in the Philippines will definitely affect these groups because the air is thin due to the high moisture in the atmosphere.
During times like this, our lungs work harder in order to transport the required oxygen throughout our entire system to keep our organs functioning well. This is because during cold months, our bodies get lesser amounts of oxygen. Boxers even train in high altitudes to increase cardiovascular strength and stamina because their lungs are forced to work harder. On the other hand, for non-athletes, the cold weather can be very unfriendly.
According to health experts, the medical term pneumonia actually covers over 50 respiratory illnesses which concern the function of the lung’s air sacs, or alveoli. There are a number of irritants which can cause pneumonia to develop, including bacteria, viruses, mycoplasm, fungi and chemicals. Once one of these irritants manages to bypass the body’s natural defenses, an infection forms in the deepest part of the lungs. As the body releases white blood cells to fight off this infection, fluids fill up the alveoli and bronchi. It is this fluid build-up and subsequent illness that many of us consider pneumonia.
Viral pneumonia is the most common form, although ironically it doesn’t always produce the worst symptoms. Many people contract viral pneumonia shortly after another upper respiratory disease has already formed. Viruses expelled from the lungs through coughing may be re-aspirated into the air sacs and form a new infection. Patients with viral pneumonia may notice a gradual increase in symptoms, starting with a persistent cough and leading to high fever and nausea. Severe cases of viral pneumonia may require hospital treatment, but many doctors suggest allowing the infection to run its course over a few weeks.
In the Philippines, pneumonia sometimes leads to death because cases of pneumonia, especially in the barrios, are left untreated either because of knowledge deficit about the symptoms of pneumonia or lack of money to pursue treatment. These factors usually aggravate pneumonia and reflects the type of healthcare a country has. I will update this post in the near future to discuss the Philippine healthcare system from a researcher’s point of view. I know many Filipinos are not given proper care particularly those from far-flung localities. That is the reason why cold weather in the Philippines can has already taken its toll on the people. Cases of pneumonia and deaths caused by pneumonia might continue to rise until February due to the cold weather reaching an all-time low of 7.5 degrees Celsius in Baguio City since 1961 (which recorded a 6.3 degrees Celsius reading on January 18).