Pneumonia is an infection of one or both of your lungs caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi. About 4 million people each year contract pneumonia in the winter in their community. Symptoms include wet coughs, trouble breathing, fever and chills, which can be very mild or very serious.You also can feel very sick in your stomach or very tired. When symptoms are serious, it can take more than a month to recover. About one in five of people end up in the hospital. So, it’s smart to take steps to reduce your chances of getting pneumonia.
Here are four tips for lowering your chances of getting pneumonia, from the National Institute on Aging and National Institutes of Health.
- Get the pneumococcal vaccine. It is generally recommended for people over 65, people with chronic conditions and people who smoke. And, Medicare covers it in full. The vaccine lasts at least five years. While it does not prevent all cases of pneumonia, it still can reduce the severity of the illness.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking reduces the ability of your lungs to filter out germs. Smoking also kills. But, it’s never too late to quit. And, quitting reduces your health risks, improving your blood pressure and circulation very quickly.
- Wash your hands with soap and water or with alcohol-based wipes in order to kill germs, especially if you are out in public spaces.
- Keep your immune system strong. Get the rest you need, eat healthy foods (eating more plants can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s) and exercise to stay healthy (for your bones and to reduce your risk of stroke.)
If you are diagnosed with pneumonia, you will likely be prescribed a drug to treat it. Take the full course of treatment for the drug, as prescribed.