Aspirus Media Center

Reduce Your Risk of Pneumonia

11/9/2022

Dr. Kris Lahren, Aspirus Pulmonary Physician

According to the Stop Pneumonia Initiative (SPI), pneumonia claimed 2.5 million lives, or one person every 13 seconds, in 2019.

 

Respiratory infection deaths further increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching a death toll of over six million in 2021. Health experts urge the public to act now to help reduce respiratory infection illness and deaths, as well as the risk of further respiratory infection pandemics.

 

“Fewer people were getting sick with respiratory viruses other than COVID while strict masking and social distancing measures were in place. Now we’re seeing a significant increase in respiratory virus activity and anticipate it could get worse as we move further into flu season,” says Kris Lahren, MD, Aspirus Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician.

 

World Pneumonia Day, November 12, was established by the SPI in 2009 to raise awareness about the world’s biggest infectious killer of adults and children. Pneumonia is a common lung infection caused by germs, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the air we breathe. Dr. Lahren adds “the cause of the infection and the overall health of the person who gets it makes a difference in the severity of illness. That’s why it’s important that people remain diligent in their efforts to stay healthy even as those preventative measures against COVID-19 continue to decrease.”

 

Risk factors

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), people at high risk for pneumonia include those:

  • With a chronic lung disease (including asthma and COPD), heart disease or diabetes
  • Recovering from severe illness
  • In nursing homes or other chronic care facilities
  • Who smoke cigarettes
  • Under 5 years of age or 65 or older

 

Reduce your risk

The ALA offers these four steps to help reduce the risk of pneumonia:

 

1. Get a flu shot. Pneumonia often develops as a complication of influenza. A flu shot, therefore, can help protect you against both diseases.

 

2. Get vaccinated. You can get vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia, the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia. These vaccines are recommended for everyone at high risk of getting pneumonia.

 

3. Stay healthy. Since pneumonia often strikes when the immune system is weak, keeping your immune system strong can help ward off this illness. It can also help ward off other respiratory infections that can lead to pneumonia.

 

Keep your immune system healthy with good health habits, a healthful diet, cleanliness, rest and regular exercise. Even if you do get sick, you'll get over it faster with a healthy immune system.

 

4. Keep an eye on your lungs. Watch out for any respiratory symptoms that last longer than a few days. Though this won't actually prevent pneumonia, it can help prevent a mild case from turning into a serious one. Early treatment makes a big difference.

 

 

Flu shots are offered at various facilities across the Aspirus Health system. For more information about scheduling or to find a location near you, visit www.aspirus.org/flu-vaccinations.

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