Getting Vaccinated for Pneumonia
Madison, Wisconsin - As the cold and flu season gets underway, many people are rolling up their sleeves to get their annual flu vaccination. Yet, as the population gets older and more people are diagnosed with chronic illnesses, it is becoming just as important to get vaccinated against pneumonia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40,000 cases are diagnosed annually and more than 4,000 people die from pneumonia. The risk for death increases significantly for people older than age 65.
Pneumonia is triggered by bacteria called streptococcus pneumococcus, which may be spread through droplets in the air. The incubation period is one to three days, which means people who are exposed to the bacteria will have symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and fatigue within three days after contact.
A blood test and a chest x-ray ordered by a physician will often determine if a patient has pneumonia and how it should be treated. Antibiotics are often prescribed to treat pneumonia, but there are other things patients can do to feel better.
- Get plenty of rest and sleep
- Drink liquids frequently
- Don't smoke
- Take cough medicine—as prescribed by a physician—if your cough disrupts your sleep
You can avoid these problems by protecting yourself with the pneumococcal vaccination. Specifically, who should get it?
- People who are older than age 65 since their weakened immune systems are less like to fight off the bacteria.
- People between the ages of 19 and 64 with illnesses such as lung, heart or kidney disease, diabetes or alcoholism, HIV/AIDS and cancer patients, and those with no spleen or a damaged spleen.
- Those who have had cochlear implants or cerebro-spinal fluid leaks.
- Cigarette smokers.
- Residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
Some people may experience mild side-effects from the pneumonia vaccination, including swelling and soreness at the injection site. The vaccination may be given at the same time as the influenza vaccine but in the opposite arm.
Keep in mind the vaccine will not offer complete protection, but you won't be as sick if you catch pneumonia after getting the shot. You can reduce your chances of getting pneumonia by doing the following:
- Stay away from people who have the flu, cold, measles or chickenpox.
- Wash your hands often to prevent the spread of bacteria that may cause pneumonia.
Don't allow illnesses to ruin holiday celebrations, skiing trips and other outings this winter. Get the protection you need by receiving pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations.
Date Published: 10/28/2013