How to Protect Yourself from Pneumonia
Pneumonia is a lung infection that inflames the air sacs in your lungs. It can affect your ability to breathe and distribute oxygen into your blood. It is not contagious (you can’t spread pneumonia to other people), but very often the cause of pneumonia is a contagious infection, such as the common cold, flu or COVID-19. By protecting yourself against these infections, you also protect yourself from pneumonia.
Here are some ways to make it less likely you’ll develop pneumonia:
- Get a flu shot every year. This makes it less likely you’ll get the flu and that’s a good thing because the flu is a common cause of pneumonia.
- Get vaccinated against pneumonia. If you are aged 65 and older, are an adult aged 19 – 64 with increased risk factors for pneumonia, such as COPD, asthma, HIV, heart disease or diabetes, or if you are a smoker or are immunosuppressed, talk to your doctor about whether you should get a pneumococcal vaccine and what type to get (there are two).
- Get recommended COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. Pneumonia is a known complication of COVID-19, so protecting yourself against COVID-19 makes it less likely you’ll develop pneumonia.
- Don’t smoke. People who smoke are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia because their lungs’ ability to fight off infection is diminished.
- Manage chronic health conditions. If you have lung conditions, such as asthma or COPD, or you have other health issues such as heart disease or diabetes, be vigilant about managing your condition to stay healthier overall while reducing your risk of pneumonia.
- Protect yourself from infections. Any type of bacterial, viral or fungal infection can lead to complications such as pneumonia. Protect yourself from all contagious infections by washing your hands often and staying away from people who are sick. You may also want to wear a mask when you are in public spaces, especially if you are at a high risk of developing pneumonia.
- Keep your immune system strong. There are many lifestyle habits that help keep your immune system firing on all cylinders. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, not smoking and managing stress are all things you can do every day to strengthen your immune response.
- Contact your doctor if symptoms linger. If you have a cough that doesn’t get better or that is accompanied by fever, chills, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest tightness or a bluish color to your lips or nails, call your doctor.
- Follow medical advice after surgery. If you have recently had surgery or been in the hospital, you may be at an increased risk for developing pneumonia. Follow the advice of doctors and nurses to keep your lungs clear. This may include sitting up as much as possible instead of lying down, walking as soon as you are able, keeping your head elevated and doing deep breathing and coughing exercises.
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Date Last Reviewed: September 13, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD