Pneumonia is swelling (inflammation) of the tissue in one or both lungs. It's usually caused by a bacterial infection. At the end of the breathing tubes in your lungs are clusters of tiny air sacs. If you have pneumonia, these tiny sacs become inflamed and fill up with fluid.

The symptoms of pneumonia can develop suddenly over 24 to 48 hours, or they may come on more slowly over several days. Common symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • a cough which may be dry, or produce thick yellow, green, brown or blood-stained mucus (phlegm)
  • difficulty breathing your breathing may be rapid and shallow, and you may feel breathless, even when resting
  • rapid heartbeat
  • fever
  • feeling generally unwell
  • sweating and shivering
  • loss of appetite
  • chest pain which gets worse when breathing or coughing

Less common symptoms include:

  • coughing up blood (haemoptysis)
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • nausea or vomiting
  • wheezing
  • joint and muscle pain
  • feeling confused and disorientated, particularly in elderly people

Most authorities list essential oils which can be used in the treatment of pneumonia, but it must be emphasised that it would be grossly irresponsible to do so without a doctor being consulted. An acute infection of this kind is one of the situations in which the use of antibiotics can be fully justified and has dramatically reduced the death-toll from pneumonia among the young and middle-aged. Many elderly people still die ostensibly from pneumonia, but this is frequently a secondary infection following other illnesses or operations, when the elderly person's powers of resistance are lowered.

Pneumonia can be a response to both bacterial and viral infection, and may follow a milder respiratory infection, such as a common cold, or may appear with no prior infection. The alveoli (see entry for LUNGS) fill with fluid, which makes breathing very difficult and reduces the efficiency of the process by which oxygen passes into the bloodstream. Indeed, from this fluid the infeclion can spread outside the lungs.

While medical treatment is absolutely necessary, this can be reinforced with careful use of essential oils. Eucalyptus, Lavender, Tea tree and Pine are among those which have been used effectively, also Cajeput and Niaouli (both closely related to Tea tree). Any of these oils, or a blend of two or three of them, should be gently rubbed onto the chest and back at frequent intervals - as often as half-hourly if possible. Massage should not be attempted while there is any fever present. If the patient feels well enough, a bath with one or more of these oils is a good alternative, also steam inhalations.

Once all trace of fever has disappeared, vigorous massage, with tapottage, especially on the sides of the torso, can help to loosen and expel fluid from the lungs.

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