Pneumonia infections increase a lot during the winter months as documented by many healthcare facilities. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, and it is caused by a variety of things. The main one is an infection caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungus, although there are some cases of pneumonia caused by the inhalation of some chemicals. Pneumonia caused by pathogens is prevalent in the winter because people spend a lot of time close together indoors. Because this is a serious condition, it is important to learn how to protect yourself. Here are our top tips on reducing the risk of contracting pneumonia during the winter.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from illnesses caused by pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. There are two vaccines you should get, one of them being the flu vaccine. The influenza virus spreads a lot during the winter and is a common cause of pneumonia and its complications. It is a simple shot that you should get once a year, preferably just before winter.
The second vaccine is the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine is recommended for those under the age of five and those over 65. However, anyone can get it and it is strongly recommended for those who have an underlying health condition or weakened immune system, both of which can make them more susceptible to pneumonia and its complications.
It is important to remember that getting the pneumococcal vaccine will not necessarily stop you from contracting the disease. If this is so, why get it? Because it protects you from the many complications associated with pneumonia. The vaccine also reduces mortality risks, which is its main benefit.
Although not required, you should also get other vaccines that prevent bacteria and viruses that can cause pneumonia. These include vaccines for measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox. Do talk to your doctor to see that everyone, especially young children, has received all their shots.
Practice Good Hygiene
Most bacteria and viruses, including those that cause pneumonia, can be passed through contact. Practising good hygiene, which includes washing hands frequently, can help stop these pathogens from spreading. When washing hands, do use soap and water. If this is not available, a sanitiser works just as well. Other good habits include not touching your nose, eyes, and mouth, especially if you are in a space where you touch surfaces others have touched.
Stay Away from People Displaying Symptoms
Being exposed to someone who has pneumonia means you will likely inhale some virus or bacteria that has caused the condition. If your immune system is strong enough, you will be able to fight off these germs and you should be okay. However, persistent exposure can increase the viral or bacterial load in the respiratory system, meaning some germs will end up in your lungs where they multiply can cause pneumonia.
It is therefore advisable that you stay away from anyone exhibiting symptoms of pneumonia because this is the best way to minimise exposure. It is also important that you learn to identify the symptoms of pneumonia so you can minimise exposure and find treatment should you think you have been infected. Patient.info has a detailed guide on pneumonia which details its symptoms so you can identify them in yourself and others. It is also an amazing resource for information on numerous other illnesses and conditions, routinely providing evidence-based information for both patients and health professionals.
Check Your General Health
Cigarettes and vapes are generally bad for your health, but they are also one of the biggest risk factors for pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Research has shown that tobacco impairs your body’s ability to fight off lung infections, including the viruses that cause pneumonia. Smokers are in the high-risk group that is encouraged to get the pneumococcal vaccine. If you find it hard to quit, start lowering the amount you smoke a day and talk to a healthcare professional so they can put together a plan for you.
Lastly, getting chronic illnesses such as diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary illnesses under control can help reduce the risk of pneumonia, in addition to providing other health benefits.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
Many people enjoy spiked drinks and eggnogs during the winter months. Taking no more than two drinks a day is recommended because more than this is considered abuse. Alcohol abuse impairs your immune system’s ability to fight infections. Heavy drinkers are also at a higher risk for pneumonia and the complications associated with the disease.
Pneumonia is a very serious respiratory illness that is also very preventable. Vaccines will help protect you from the viruses and bacteria that cause the illness, but there are additional steps you can take to protect yourself. Follow the tips we have outlined above to avoid contracting the disease during the winter months.