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Pneumonia 101: 6 Things You Should Know About Pneumonia

October 13, 2017
Published in: Pulmonology

Pneumonia Xray

Most people believe pneumonia is an illness that only affects older adults, the very young, or people with impaired immune systems. However, the truth is pneumonia is a serious illness that can strike anyone at any age—even healthy individuals. Although pneumonia is common, there are a few things you may not know about this lung infection. Here are six surprising pneumonia facts everyone should know:

Pneumonia is a Leading Cause of Death in the United States

Believe it or not, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza, pneumonia, and pneumococcal pneumonia are among the top ten most prevalent causes of death in the United States. While this illness is especially hard on the very old and very young, this disease also kills individuals in their prime. It doesn't take long for pneumonia to wreak havoc on the body. Pneumonia is a serious illness, and this type of lung infection should never be taken lightly. Symptoms of pneumonia typically require medical intervention.

The Risk for Developing Pneumonia May Be Higher During Flu Season

Sick woman laying down with a thermometer in her mouthAs flu cases multiply during the winter season, complications arising from pneumonia also increase. The sheer number of people experiencing respiratory illnesses is the biggest risk factor for developing this disease. People suffering from the flu may be more susceptible to pneumonia because their immune systems are already compromised by influenza. Avoiding the flu is an effective way to sidestep pneumonia. Obtaining a vaccination against the flu is an excellent way to lower your risk of experiencing complications from the flu.

People with Chronic Conditions May Be More Susceptible to Pneumonia

Adults with certain underlying health issues and chronic conditions have a higher risk of developing pneumonia. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, asthma, diabetes, and sickle cell anemia are common conditions that increase pneumonia risks. Furthermore, individuals diagnosed with cancer, AIDS, and people who have undergone organ transplants are much more vulnerable to this illness. It is important that people who have chronic conditions stay on top of treating these diseases. Keeping yourself as healthy as possible is a wonderful way to fend off pneumonia and other common ailments.

Pneumonia Symptoms are Often Different from the Flu

While pneumonia and the flu share symptoms like coughing, fever, and congestion, the illnesses do have symptoms that differ. Common symptoms of the flu include aches, fatigue, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, and fever. Symptoms of pneumonia usually include difficulty breathing, chills, and chest pain. Sweating, clammy skin and confusion may also be symptoms of pneumonia. It can be difficult to tell the difference between these illnesses because pneumonia is often a complication arising from the flu.

Pneumonia Often Leads to Hospitalization

Sick woman coughingHospitalization from pneumonia is quite common. Even a healthy adult can need intensive medical intervention. People with chronic conditions have a higher risk of hospitalization. In fact, nearly half of all individuals who contract pneumococcal pneumonia, a more severe type of pneumonia, end up in the hospital. This is one of the reasons why it's vital to remain vigilant when flu or pneumonia symptoms are present.

Pneumonia Can Often Be Prevented

An ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure. Respiratory illnesses are among the most contagious types of diseases, but regular hand washing can help decrease the risks of getting sick. Simple actions like coughing and sneezing into a tissue or your sleeve can help you avoid passing germs to others. Maintaining optimum levels of health and managing chronic conditions is also important in preventing pneumonia. Talk to your doctor to learn more about staying up to date with vaccinations and other ways to help to avoid pneumonia.

Pneumonia is a serious illness that can cause problems even for the healthiest individuals. Prevention is the best strategy for staying well, especially for those with chronic conditions. Regular checkups, vaccinations, and managing chronic illnesses are all effective methods for preventing pneumonia. If you believe you have symptoms of pneumonia, please contact your doctor immediately. Don't delay. Addressing this illness sooner rather than later is the best way to increase the odds of a rapid and successful recovery.