As cold and flu season continues, the last thing you want to deal with is pneumonia. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to prevent getting pneumonia and some great at-home treatments to eliminate it if you’ve already been diagnosed. Even though pneumonia often clears up in two to three weeks, it can become more serious, especially for older adults, babies and people dealing with other illnesses. Visit your health care provider as soon as possible if you are experiencing symptoms like coughing up mucus, fever or shortness of breath.
The number one step is to get your flu shot every year. Seasonal influenza is a common cause of pneumonia, so getting the flu shot is a great way to help prevent it. It’s also important to wash your hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose or using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.
Being aware of your general health is another great preventive measure. Be sure to get plenty of rest, eat well and exercise regularly to avoid catching viruses or respiratory infections. Since pneumonia often follows respiratory infections, be aware of any symptoms that linger for more than a few days. Of course, not smoking dramatically reduces your risk of getting pneumonia, as tobacco damages your lungs’ ability to fight off infection. If you do smoke, talk to your provider about getting the pneumococcal vaccine.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with pneumonia, the following at-home steps can help you recover and avoid any complications.
• Be sure to get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
• Take care of your cough if it's making it hard for you to rest. Coughing is one way your body gets rid of infection, so only try and stop it if it's severe enough to make breathing difficult, cause vomiting or prevent rest.
• Talk with your provider about taking acetaminophen, such as Tylenol or Aspirin, to help reduce fever and make you more comfortable. Remember to be safe with medicines, and read and follow all instructions on the label.
Your provider will probably want to see you again after a week or so of treatment to make sure that you’re getting better. Be sure to call your health care provider if you’re not feeling better, if your cough is getting worse or if you have other symptoms like shortness of breath, fever, weakness or feeling faint.
Did You Know?
The most common community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) bacterial pathogens include streptococcus pneumonia, haemophilus influenza and moraxella catarrhalis, which account for approximately 85% of the total incidence of CAP in the United States. Viral causes of pneumonia include rhinovirus, adenovirus, influenza A and B, parainfluenza and respiratory syncytial virus.