How to avoid pneumonia?

How To Keep Loved Ones Safe From Pneumonia

Last Updated: November 13, 2019

As the weather gets colder and wetter, we start to hear a lot about the implications of flu season. However, it is equally as important to stay informed about another infection that’s a dangerous threat for our older loved ones: pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that causes problems with breathing, leading to high fever and other life-threatening symptoms.

Pneumonia can originate from bacteria, viruses and many other causes. It is one of the most common illnesses in older adults.1 The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that more than 60 percent of seniors over 65 have been admitted to hospitals due to pneumonia.2

How To Prevent Pneumonia

Taking good care of health is essential for preventing any serious respiratory infection. This preventative measure is useful for people of any age. Older adults, however, are especially vulnerable to pneumonia due to weakened immune systems as a result of aging. Here are five helpful ways to keep loved ones safe from the illness:

Avoid Smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for pneumonia. Smoking harms the lungs’ ability to defend against infection, greatly increasing the individual’s likelihood of getting the disease. One way to help at-risk seniors is to encourage them to stop smoking. It’s also important for caregivers to avoid smoking around older loved ones. A smoke-free environment promotes excellent lung health.

Schedule an Immunization Appointment

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Mayo Clinic both advise at-risk seniors to get vaccinated against bacterial pneumococcal pneumonia.3 This one-time vaccine can prevent or reduce the severity of bacterial pneumonia. Doctors may suggest a booster vaccine after five years. Additionally, making sure that your loved ones are up to date with annual flu shots may reduce their risks of developing pneumonia.4 Scheduling vaccinations against illnesses such as influenza may strengthen the senior’s defenses against bacterial pneumonia and other threatening health conditions.5

Be Alert To Recognize the Symptoms of Pneumonia

When pneumonia appears, getting immediate treatment can help patients deal successfully with the symptoms. Depending on the severity of the pneumococcal infection, immediate treatment can save someone’s life. Here are a few symptoms to watch for:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Trouble breathing
  • Tiredness and weakness
  • Persistent cough
  • Pain in the chest or abdomen

According to the Infectious Disease Clinics of North America, it can be more difficult to detect bacterial pneumonia in seniors because the elderly may not always have the classic symptoms of cough and fever. When caring for older adults, keep an eye out for non-respiratory pneumonia symptoms in seniors.6 These symptoms include confusion, delirium or dizziness. Stay alert to any changes in your parent’s or loved one’s health if they have a preexisting condition that can mask the symptoms of pneumonia. Make sure that if they have been prescribed antibiotics, they take them as directed and don’t miss a dose.

Promote Good Habits for Disease Resistance

Maintaining excellent hygiene can strengthen the body’s defenses against pneumonia and other infections. It can also reduce the risk of developing respiratory infections and viruses and transmitting them to others. Mayo Clinic advises people of all ages to wash their hands regularly to prevent the spread of a cold or flu.7

Good dental hygiene in older adults is also a must for fighting pneumonia. Dental or oral infections can not only cause respiratory infections, but pneumonia as well. Remind loved ones to brush their teeth every day and follow a good nightly cleaning routine if they have dentures.

Helping seniors avoid others who are ill is another great preventative measure. Be on the lookout for people with chickenpox, measles, flu, and respiratory infections. Make sure that your loved one steers clear for a week or two until their health is no longer at serious risk. If older adults aren’t careful, these conditions can lead to pneumonia.

Maintain Excellent Health

A key to preventing pneumonia is keeping the immune system strong so that it can fight off infections. Make sure your parent follows appropriate nutrition guidelines for seniors and get the vitamins and minerals needed to boost health. Important vitamins for the immune system include vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin E.8

Staying active and getting plenty of physical exercise can have a positive effect on the immune system. Try to help loved ones sleep well at night, rest properly and avoid stress. Good overall health habits protect against invaders.

How To Prevent Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia

A ventilator is a machine that delivers oxygen to patients who are no longer able to breathe on their own. Ventilators are often used for older adults who are recovering from surgery or are fighting serious illness in intensive care. Caregivers with loved ones who receive breathing assistance from a ventilator need to remain alert for the warning signs of ventilator-associated pneumonia.9 This disease can appear if germs enter the lungs through breathing tubes.
To prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia, the CDC suggests that health care providers keep the head of a patient’s bed raised between 30 and 45 degrees if possible.10 It’s essential to clean or replace tubes before using them with a new patient. Here are a few other steps that can help:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene for patients
  • Avoid smoking around patients
  • Opt for non-invasive face masks instead of intubation
  • Monitor at-risk patients closely

These guidelines principally fall on doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Caregivers and families can help prevent the likelihood of their loved one getting pneumonia by ensuring that the facility has an excellent reputation for cleanliness. Also, it may be necessary to respectfully address this concern with the medical professionals of the facility.

According to the CDC, family members should do the following to help prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia:

  • Request health care providers to clean their hands before manipulating breathing tubes
  • Ask when the patient can try breathing without the ventilator
  • Ask how often the patient’s mouth is being cleaned
  • Request that the head of the bed be raised

There is nothing wrong with caregivers requesting that doctors and nurses follow good hygiene practices for their loved ones. When patients who are in a vulnerable state have someone looking out for them, it can have a significant effect on preventing pneumonia.

How To Prevent Pneumonia After Surgery

Postoperative pneumonia is something that caregivers and family members need to be aware of anytime an older loved one needs surgery. This type of pneumonia is especially dangerous because hospitals may have viruses or strains of bacteria that are resistant to treatment, including antibiotics. Undergoing surgery increases the risk of developing pneumonia for older patients for many reasons. People recovering from surgery may have a weakened immune system because of severe wounds or certain medications used during the operation. General anesthesia may increase the danger of this type of complication.11 Seniors may also be fighting other illnesses at the same time, so the doctors should make sure they continue to take antibiotics as needed. In spite of strict cleaning, hospitals sometimes have bacteria present that can take advantage of vulnerable immune systems.

All patients who undergo anesthesia and surgery need to be careful in regards to avoiding pneumonia. Here are a few things that doctors and caregivers can do to reduce risks:

  • Teach recovering patients deep breathing techniques
  • Encourage patients to cough gently to clear the airways of secretions
  • Keep airways clear by maintaining an upright position for patients
  • Help patients to stay active and ambulatory if possible

Most hospitals have requirements in place for maintaining intensive care units, but you can also put your foot down as a caregiver. Having friends around can keep patients in good spirits and speed up the recovery process, but it’s important to avoid transmitting illness. To protect a recovering older adult, you may need to require all visitors to wash their hands and wear protective clothing. Never allow people who are sick to be around your loved one.

How To Prevent Aspiration Pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia can develop if patients accidentally inhale liquid, food, saliva or stomach acid.12 These contaminants often carry bacteria, which can gradually multiply in lung tissue and cause a pneumococcal infection. Normally, the body’s gag reflex causes people to cough or vomit foreign material, keeping airways clear. However, in some older adults, this doesn’t happen, and food stays inside the lungs.

Why do some older adults have trouble coughing normally? There are a number of potential causes:

  • Anesthesia or sedative medications
  • Throat cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Dental issues that make it hard to chew correctly
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Stroke, seizures, brain injury or mental impairments
  • Gastroesophageal reflux

If your loved one has one of these conditions, it’s vital to take steps to prevent aspiration pneumonia.13 Older adults that are fully alert can keep food and liquids from entering the lungs by sitting up straight while eating and drinking. It’s also a good idea to eat soft foods, take small bites and drink liquids using a straw. Thickened liquids are usually easier to swallow.

If caregivers need to feed loved ones by hand, there are steps they can take to reduce the possibility of food traveling down the wrong tube. For example, older adults should be allowed to rest for about 30-minutes before feeding sessions, since this helps muscles for swallowing to get ready. Take it slow, giving the person plenty of time to chew and swallow. If possible, give food or drink when the seniors are sitting in a chair. Otherwise, elevate the backrest of the bed to a 90-degree angle.

Taking Steps To Prevent Pneumonia Can Keep Loved Ones Safe

Pneumonia is a serious disease. Taking the time to help loved ones strengthen their immune system, avoid risky situations, maintain excellent hygiene and get prompt medical treatment can be an extremely helpful way of showing that you care. Staying free of pneumonia enables seniors to live life with more comfort and happiness.

What other suggestions do you have for preventing pneumonia and seasonal respiratory infections? We’d like to hear your tips in the comments below.

3Pneumonia. (n.d.). Retrieved from

  • Elderly Pneumonia
  • 10 Healthy Habits for Seniors to Keep
  • The 5 Most Common Infections in the Elderly

Pneumonia Treatment and Recovery

How Is Pneumonia Treated?

When you get a pneumonia diagnosis, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan. Treatment for pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia you have, how sick you are feeling, your age, and whether you have other health conditions. The goals of treatment are to cure the infection and prevent complications. It is important to follow your treatment plan carefully until you are fully recovered.

Take any medications as prescribed by your doctor. If your pneumonia is caused by bacteria, you will be given an antibiotic. It is important to take all the antibiotic until it is gone, even though you will probably start to feel better in a couple of days. If you stop, you risk having the infection come back, and you increase the chances that the germs will be resistant to treatment in the future.

Typical antibiotics do not work against viruses. If you have viral pneumonia, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to treat it. Sometimes, though, symptom management and rest are all that is needed.

Most people can manage their symptoms such as fever and cough at home by following these steps:

  • Control your fever with aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen), or acetaminophen. DO NOT give aspirin to children.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to help loosen secretions and bring up phlegm.
  • Do not take cough medicines without first talking to your doctor. Coughing is one way your body works to get rid of an infection. If your cough is preventing you from getting the rest you need, ask your doctor about steps you can take to get relief.
  • Drink warm beverages, take steamy baths and use a humidifier to help open your airways and ease your breathing. Contact your doctor right away if your breathing gets worse instead of better over time.
  • Stay away from smoke to let your lungs heal. This includes smoking, secondhand smoke and wood smoke. Talk to your doctor if you are a smoker and are having trouble staying smokefree while you recover. This would be a good time to think about quitting for good.
  • Get lots of rest. You may need to stay in bed for a while. Get as much help as you can with meal preparation and household chores until you are feeling stronger. It is important not to overdo daily activities until you are fully recovered.

If your pneumonia is so severe that you are treated in the hospital, you may be given intravenous fluids and antibiotics, as well as oxygen therapy, and possibly other breathing treatments.

Recovering from Pneumonia

It may take time to recover from pneumonia. Some people feel better and are able to return to their normal routines within a week. For other people, it can take a month or more. Most people continue to feel tired for about a month. Adequate rest is important to maintain progress toward full recovery and to avoid relapse. Don’t rush your recovery! Talk with your doctor about when you can go back to your normal routine.

While you are recovering, try to limit your contact with family and friends, to help keep your germs from spreading to other people. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough, promptly dispose of tissues in a closed waste container and wash your hands often.

If you have taken antibiotics, your doctor will want to make sure your chest X-ray is normal again after you finish the whole prescription. It may take many weeks for your X-ray to clear up.

Possible Pneumonia Complications

People who may be more likely to have complications from pneumonia include:

  • Older adults or very young children.
  • People whose immune system does not work well.
  • People with other, serious medical problems such as diabetes or cirrhosis of the liver.

Possible complications include:

  • Respiratory failure, which requires a breathing machine or ventilator.
  • Sepsis, a condition in which there is uncontrolled inflammation in the body, which may lead to widespread organ failure.
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a severe form of respiratory failure.
  • Lung abscesses, which are infrequent, but serious complications of pneumonia. They occur when pockets of pus form inside or around the lung. These may sometimes need to be drained with surgery.


Talk to our experts at the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine. Our service is free and we are here to help you by phone, web chat or email.

Get Vaccinated

There are two vaccines that can protect you from Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, one of the most common bacteria that cause pneumonia.

Children under the age of 2 and people over the age of 65 should get vaccinated. You also should be vaccinated between these ages if:

  • You smoke
  • You have a condition that makes your immune system not work as well
  • You have certain long-term health conditions

Talk with your doctor or pediatrician about which of the two vaccines is best for you.

Pneumonia can also be caused by other infections, such as the flu. In fact, the flu is one of the most common causes of pneumonia. So, with very rare exceptions, it’s important to get a flu vaccine each year once you reach 6 months old.

This is especially important for children under the age of 5 or adults 65 and older (and anyone who spends time with them). That’s because people in these age groups are more likely to get pneumonia from the flu. They also have a higher chance of complications once they get pneumonia.

Parents should also make sure that children under the age of 5 have had the Hib vaccine, which prevents Haemophilus influenzae, another cause of pneumonia.

If your child was born early or has certain medical problems, like a heart or lung condition, your doctor may talk with you about palivizumab shots. This can prevent serious respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that can lead to pneumonia.

Because other infections like measles and pertussis (whooping cough) can cause pneumonia, it’s important to talk with your doctor to make sure that everyone in your family is current on their vaccines.

“Walking” pneumonia is a non-medical word that describes a mild case of bacterial pneumonia. Often the child is not sick enough to stay home. He or she can still walk around with little difficulty.

Pneumonia is spread by infected people who carry the germs in fluid droplets in their throats, noses or mouths. The infected person coughs the germs into the air. Your child breathes in the germs or comes in direct contact with the infected person’s saliva or mucous by touching something. It is possible to catch pneumonia from someone who does not know he is sick. Pneumonia cannot be “caught” by walking outside without a coat.

Pneumonia occurs most often during the cold months when children spend most of their time indoors in close contact with other people. Children under the age of 2 are at highest risk for pneumonia. Almost everyone fully recovers with proper medical care.

Signs and Symptoms

Fast, difficult breathing Severe, shaking chills Muscle aches
Cough Chest pains Loss of appetite
Fever Tiredness, weakness Nausea or vomiting

Pneumonia caused by a virus is often less severe than when caused by bacteria. The symptoms usually start out like the flu. They slowly get worse over a few days.

Pneumonia caused by bacteria can come on suddenly with a high fever, fast breathing and coughing.

Both types of pneumonia can cause the child’s cough to last for weeks after the fever has stopped.


The health provider can usually diagnose pneumonia based on the time of year and the child’s symptoms by watching the child’s breathing and by listening to the lungs. To check for bacterial pneumonia, a chest X-ray, blood and other tests may be done.

Treatment of Pneumonia

Pneumonia caused by bacteria is treated with an antibiotic. Symptoms should improve within 12 to 36 hours after starting the medicine.

It is important to take the full course of antibiotic as prescribed. Stopping the medicine early may cause the infection to come back. It may also make the medicine not work as well for your child in the future.

Pneumonia caused by a virus cannot be treated with antibiotics. Viral pneumonia usually goes away on its own.

Things That You Can Do to Help Your Child at Home Are

  • Control the fever with the proper medicine and right strength for the age of your child. Fevers lower than 101° F do not need to be treated unless the child is uncomfortable (see Helping Hand HH-I-105).
  • Give your child plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • See that your child gets lots of rest.
  • Do not give over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines or other OTC medicines without asking the health provider first. The child needs to cough and bring up the phlegm. Coughing is the body’s way of clearing the infection from the lungs.
  • Avoid exposing your child to tobacco smoke or other irritants in the air.

Preventing Pneumonia

  • Keep vaccinations up-to-date. All children, starting at 2 months, should begin a series of vaccines that prevents the bacterial type of pneumonia.
  • All children 6 months of age or older should get a flu vaccine yearly even if they have an egg allergy.
  • Teach children to cover their noses and mouths with facial tissue or a sleeve of their shirt when sneezing or Throw away tissues after use.
  • Teach and practice good hand washing (Picture 2).
  • Wash surfaces that are touched often (like toys, tables and doorknobs) with soap and water or wipe them down with a disinfectant.
  • Keep the home smoke free.

If your child has a weakened immune system or is at high risk because of a chronic condition of the lungs, heart, or kidneys, ask the child’s health provider if other vaccines are needed.

When to Call the Doctor

You should call your child’s doctor if your child:

  • Has trouble breathing or is breathing much faster than usual
  • Has a bluish or gray color to the fingernails or lips
  • Is older than 6 months and has a fever over 102°F
  • Is younger than 6 months and has a temperature over 100.4°F.
  • Has a fever for more than a few days after taking antibiotics

When your child should stay home and return to school or childcare

A Child Should Stay Home from School or Childcare If He

  • Has a fever over 100 °F.
  • Feels too ill or does not have the energy to take part in school or childcare activities.

A Child Can Return to School When He

  • Is fever-free for 24 hours
  • Has the energy to return to his regular routine
  • Eats and drinks well

It might take weeks for your child to get all his energy back. Some days will be better than others. Allow your child to resume activities gradually.

Pneumonia (PDF)

HH-I-299 2/09 Revised 12/16 Copyright 2009 Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Can Pneumonia Be Prevented?

Yes. You can reduce your risk of getting pneumonia by following a few simple steps. Here’s how:

  • Get a flu shot every year to prevent seasonal influenza. The flu is a common cause of pneumonia, so preventing the flu is a good way to prevent pneumonia.
  • Children younger than 5 and adults 65 and older should get vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia, a common form of bacterial pneumonia. The pneumococcal vaccine is also recommended for all children and adults who are at increased risk of pneumococcal disease due to other health conditions. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccine. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if one of them is right for you.
  • There are several other vaccines that can prevent infections by bacteria and viruses that may lead to pneumonia, including pertussis (whooping cough), chicken pox and measles. Please talk to your doctor about whether you and your children are up to date on your vaccines and to determine if any of these vaccines are appropriate for you.

Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose, going to the bathroom, diapering, and before eating or preparing foods.

Don’t Smoke

Tobacco damages your lung’s ability to fight off infection, and smokers have been found to be at higher risk of getting pneumonia. Smokers are considered one of the high-risk groups that are encouraged to get the pneumococcal vaccine.

Be Aware of Your General Health

  • Since pneumonia often follows respiratory infections, be aware of any symptoms that linger more than a few days.
  • Good health habits—a healthy diet, rest, regular exercise, etc.—help you from getting sick from viruses and respiratory illnesses. They also help promote fast recovery when you do get a cold, the flu or other respiratory illness.

If you have children, talk to their doctor about:

  • Hib vaccine, which prevents pneumonia in children from Haemophilus influenza type b
  • A drug called Synagis (palivizumab), which is given to some children younger than 24 months to prevent pneumonia caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

If you have cancer or HIV, talk to your doctor about additional ways to prevent pneumonia and other infections.

Talk to our experts at the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine. Our service is free and we are here to help you by phone, web chat or email.


Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. The lungs are made up of small sacs called alveoli, which fill with air when a healthy person breathes. When an individual has pneumonia, the alveoli are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake.

Pneumonia is the single largest infectious cause of death in children worldwide. Pneumonia killed 808 694 children under the age of 5 in 2017, accounting for 15% of all deaths of children under five years old. Pneumonia affects children and families everywhere, but is most prevalent in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Children can be protected from pneumonia, it can be prevented with simple interventions, and treated with low-cost, low-tech medication and care.


Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi. The most common are:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae – the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in children;
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) – the second most common cause of bacterial pneumonia;
  • respiratory syncytial virus is the most common viral cause of pneumonia;
  • in infants infected with HIV, Pneumocystis jiroveci is one of the most common causes of pneumonia, responsible for at least one quarter of all pneumonia deaths in HIV-infected infants.


Pneumonia can be spread in a number of ways. The viruses and bacteria that are commonly found in a child’s nose or throat, can infect the lungs if they are inhaled. They may also spread via air-borne droplets from a cough or sneeze. In addition, pneumonia may spread through blood, especially during and shortly after birth. More research needs to be done on the different pathogens causing pneumonia and the ways they are transmitted, as this is of critical importance for treatment and prevention.

Presenting features

The presenting features of viral and bacterial pneumonia are similar. However, the symptoms of viral pneumonia may be more numerous than the symptoms of bacterial pneumonia. In children under 5 years of age, who have cough and/or difficult breathing, with or without fever, pneumonia is diagnosed by the presence of either fast breathing or lower chest wall indrawing where their chest moves in or retracts during inhalation (in a healthy person, the chest expands during inhalation). Wheezing is more common in viral infections.

Very severely ill infants may be unable to feed or drink and may also experience unconsciousness, hypothermia and convulsions.

Risk factors

While most healthy children can fight the infection with their natural defences, children whose immune systems are compromised are at higher risk of developing pneumonia. A child’s immune system may be weakened by malnutrition or undernourishment, especially in infants who are not exclusively breastfed.

Pre-existing illnesses, such as symptomatic HIV infections and measles, also increase a child’s risk of contracting pneumonia.

The following environmental factors also increase a child’s susceptibility to pneumonia:

  • indoor air pollution caused by cooking and heating with biomass fuels (such as wood or dung)
  • living in crowded homes
  • parental smoking.


Pneumonia should be treated with antibiotics. The antibiotic of choice is amoxicillin dispersible tablets. Most cases of pneumonia require oral antibiotics, which are often prescribed at a health centre. These cases can also be diagnosed and treated with inexpensive oral antibiotics at the community level by trained community health workers. Hospitalization is recommended only for severe cases of pneumonia.


Preventing pneumonia in children is an essential component of a strategy to reduce child mortality. Immunization against Hib, pneumococcus, measles and whooping cough (pertussis) is the most effective way to prevent pneumonia.

Adequate nutrition is key to improving children’s natural defences, starting with exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. In addition to being effective in preventing pneumonia, it also helps to reduce the length of the illness if a child does become ill.

Addressing environmental factors such as indoor air pollution (by providing affordable clean indoor stoves, for example) and encouraging good hygiene in crowded homes also reduces the number of children who fall ill with pneumonia.

In children infected with HIV, the antibiotic cotrimoxazole is given daily to decrease the risk of contracting pneumonia.

Economic costs

The cost of antibiotic treatment for all children with pneumonia in 66 of the countdown to 2015 countries for maternal, newborn and child survival is estimated at around US$ 109 million per year. The price includes the antibiotics and diagnostics for pneumonia management.

WHO response

The WHO and UNICEF integrated Global action plan for pneumonia and diarrhoea (GAPPD) aims to accelerate pneumonia control with a combination of interventions to protect, prevent, and treat pneumonia in children with actions to:

  • protect children from pneumonia including promoting exclusive breastfeeding and adequate complementary feeding;
  • prevent pneumonia with vaccinations, hand washing with soap, reducing household air pollution, HIV prevention and cotrimoxazole prophylaxis for HIV-infected and exposed children;
  • treat pneumonia focusing on making sure that every sick child has access to the right kind of care — either from a community-based health worker, or in a health facility if the disease is severe — and can get the antibiotics and oxygen they need to get well;

A number of countries including Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia have developed district, state and national plans to intensify actions for the control of pneumonia and diarrhoea. Many more have integrated diarrhoea and pneumonia specific action into their national child health and child survival strategies. For many countries the post Millenium Development Goal agenda has explicitly included ending preventable diarrhoea and pneumonia deaths as a priority action.

How do you prevent pneumonia?

There are some things you can do to reduce your risk of pneumonia. These are important to follow if you have previously had pneumonia, to prevent developing it again.

Don’t smoke

Smokers have an increased risk of developing pneumonia as well as other chest infections – and so do children whose parents smoke.

Practise good hygiene

Common winter viral infections increase the risk of pneumonia, so practise good hygiene to reduce the spread of germs. Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw it in the bin straight away.

Avoid alcohol misuse

Excessive alcohol misuse weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections, including pneumonia.

Get vaccinated

There are two types of vaccine available for pneumonia. They protect against the most common cause of pneumonia, the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. They aim to protect people who are at a higher risk from pneumonia, including older people and babies.

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) is for people over 65 and anyone over the age of two who’s in a high-risk group. Most adults will only need to have this vaccination once in their life.

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is given to all infants by the NHS. Babies get their first dose when they’re 2 months old.

If you’re in a high-risk group, it’s also a good idea to have a flu jab every year. It’s usually free for people at risk and is available from your GP and many high street chemists.

To find out more about getting a pneumonia or flu jab, talk to your GP or call our helpline on 03000 030 555.

Next: how to diagnose and treat pneumonia >

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