“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This famous Ben Franklin quote actually refers to fire safety, but it’s been borrowed and used in all kinds of contexts by doctors since then. One ailment that it’s particularly relevant to is pneumonia. But what causes pneumonia, and how can prevention help?
What Causes Pneumonia?
Have you ever had pneumonia? It’s not a fun experience. Luckily, there are proven strategies to avoid contracting pneumonia again. In order to prevent pneumonia, it’s helpful to know how it happens. Many people think that pneumonia is caused by a simple germ, just like any other cold or flu. The truth is a little more complicated.
Bacteria, Viruses, and Fungi
In order to understand where pneumonia comes from, it’s important to note that pneumonia is not a disease, but a condition. Pneumonia occurs when an infection in the lungs causes fluid and other blockages that make breathing difficult. This can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi:
- Bacterial pneumonia most commonly occurs after you have experienced another cold or flu that affected your lungs, though it can sometimes happen on its own. It is often quite serious and requires medical intervention.
- Viral pneumonia is caused by viruses that infect the upper respiratory tract. The influenza virus (or the flu) is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in adults. While most cases are mild, a person can still get seriously sick from this type of pneumonia. Worse yet, bacterial pneumonia can still develop after viral pneumonia is resolved.
- Fungal pneumonia is rare, but it can happen. It occurs when a person breathes in too much toxic fungus. It is most common in places where toxic fungus naturally grows, such as the Mid-Ohio Valley. Most people will not need to worry about fungal pneumonia, but be sure to ask your doctor about whether cases are common in your area.
Although pneumonia can be caused by wildly different things, the symptoms are the same. If you have a lingering cough that won’t go away, accompanied by a fever and fatigue, you should talk to your doctor about pneumonia. If you have these issues and are also experiencing difficulty breathing or chest pains, you should go to an emergency room right away. Either way, if you suspect pneumonia, your next stop should be a doctor’s office.
How Can I Avoid Pneumonia?
We all know that pneumonia is a serious condition. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to avoid getting pneumonia and to keep your lungs happy and healthy throughout flu season and beyond. Now that you know where it comes from, use the following tips to avoid pneumonia:
- Get your flu vaccine every year. The influenza virus is the most common gateway to a later case of pneumonia, so if you get your flu vaccine you can avoid two illnesses with a single shot!
- In addition to the flu shot, ask your doctor about other vaccines that can help prevent pneumonia. You might be surprised to find out how many safe and effective vaccines have been developed for seniors trying to stay healthy. Talk to your doctor and make sure your vaccines are up to date, and if they aren’t, make sure you take care of them before flu season.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after you touch high-traffic surfaces in public places. Many germs that cause pneumonia can be passed via touch.
- If you smoke, now is a great time to quit. Smoking is a known risk factor not only for catching pneumonia but also for having a difficult time recovering.
- When you’re healthy, your immune system is healthy too. Give yourself a leg up on pneumonia by prioritizing your health. Eat food with lots of nutrients, get a good amount of sleep, and stay active.
Now that you know what causes pneumonia, you also know how to avoid it. So get that flu shot, keep an eye on your health, and talk to your doctor about other ways you can avoid pneumonia this flu season.
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