World Pneumonia Day is commemorated every year on November 12th to raise awareness of pneumonia, an infectious lung disease. According to the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), “Pneumonia is the single biggest infectious killer of adults and children – claiming the lives of 2.5 million, including 672,000 children, in 2019. Children under five years old and adults over 70 years make up 75 percent of pneumonia deaths. Most pneumonia deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted the danger of pneumonia particularly in adults, with almost 47 million cases globally and 1.2 million deaths to date.”
Pneumonia is an infection caused by bacteria, virus, or fungi, that inflames the air sacs in the lungs. These air sacs will fill with fluid, causing a wet cough, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. Because of its ability to quickly become life threatening, high risks individuals need to seek treatment from a doctor immediately.
Understanding pneumonia is the first line of defense to protecting yourself. Often thought that its just another cold or the flu, pneumonia is an infection that can be caught anywhere and anytime. Symptoms can appear with little warning, and recover can be slow- taking weeks to feel like yourself again. Like COVID-19, certain chronic health conditions like COPD, asthma, heart disease and diabetes can increase your risk of the infection.
Prevention is key to keeping yourself healthy from pneumonia. Some important key points from The Mayo Clinic to prevent pneumonia are to:
- Get vaccinated. Vaccines are available to prevent some types of pneumonia and the flu. Talk with your doctor about getting these shots. The vaccination guidelines have changed over time so make sure to review your vaccination status with your doctor even if you recall previously receiving a pneumonia vaccine.
- Make sure children get vaccinated. Doctors recommend a different pneumonia vaccine for children younger than age 2 and for children ages 2 to 5 years who are at particular risk of pneumococcal disease. Children who attend a group childcare center should also get the vaccine. Doctors also recommend flu shots for children older than 6 months.
- Practice good hygiene. To protect yourself against respiratory infections that sometimes lead to pneumonia, wash your hands regularly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking damages your natural defenses against respiratory infections.
- Keep your immune system strong. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
Every 13 seconds someone dies from Pneumonia in the world, so the more we know the safer everyone is. Education is key part of the prevention.