Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs, and can be caused by a number of different things, including fungus, bacteria, and viruses. Pneumonia is more prevalent in winter months, not because it is cold, but because people tend to be indoors and in close contact more.
There are several steps you can take to avoid contracting pneumonia during the winter months:
Practice good hygiene habits. Bacteria and viruses that can cause pneumonia are often passed through contact, so frequent hand washing can help prevent their spread. Be sure you wash thoroughly and with soap. Other good habits include coughing into your sleeve, and not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Focus on general health. Reducing exposure to tobacco smoke and getting chronic illnesses, like diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, under control will help minimize the risk of contracting pneumonia.
Get a flu shot. Flu can predispose you to pneumonia, which is one of many good reasons to be immunized against the flu. Recommended for everyone older than six months, the influenza vaccine is especially critical for seniors, pregnant women, those who have chronic health problems or compromised immune systems, and caregivers and family of those groups.
Consider a pneumococcal vaccine. One of the most common and fatal types of pneumonia is pneumococcal. Although the vaccine doesn’t cover every possible cause for pneumonia, the current vaccination is effective against the most common strains. All adults 65 years of age and older and anyone 2 through 64 years of age who has a long-term health problem or a disease or condition that lowers the body’s resistance to infection should be vaccinated for pneumonia.
It is important to know that just because you get the pneumococcal vaccine, that doesn’t mean you won’t get sick. I sometimes have patients come in and tell me that they were immunized but still got pneumonia. I tell them “You’re in my office to tell me about it, so the vaccine worked.” It’s really a mortality benefit.
If you have questions about vaccinations or experience symptoms of pneumonia such as coughing, yellow or green sputum, and high fever, contact your healthcare provider.