The Lung Foundation Australia Pneumonia Awareness Week runs from Sunday 17 May to Sunday May 24. With winter approaching it’s a timely opportunity to talk more about the dangers pneumonia poses to the elderly, people with respiratory disease and children under the age of 5.
What is Pneumonia ?
Pneumonia is a bacterial or viral infection of the lungs. Air sacs within the lungs called Alveoli can fill with fluid which may become solid, it can affect both lungs or just one. Coughing up coloured mucus, fever, shaking chills and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms of pneumonia. It’s quite common for people to contract pneumonia after a cold or a bout of the flu.
Globally it’s estimated that there are 156 million new cases of pneumonia each year with 1.6 million children under the age of 5 dying from this infection each year. We naturally think pneumonia is a bigger threat to the elderly and sufferers of respiratory disease, and in developed country’s this is mostly true. The high death rate in children is predominantly from developing countries.In Australia pneumonia was responsible for 1.6% of registered deaths in 2011, which is why it’s so important to be vigilant in educating the public of the dangers of pneumonia.
Prevention is the key
So what can we do to avoid contracting pneumonia ? As I have chronic lung disease I am pedantic about getting any type of lung infection.
One of the best measures we can take is to vaccinate against it. Pneumonia vaccinations are recommended every 5 years. Other steps to prevent pneumonia which I have found successful include a yearly flu vaccination, building your immune system through eating healthy foods, exercise and a daily dose of zinc powder. While there are still studies investigating how you can boost your immune system, I have personally found these steps have worked well.
How well does vaccination work ?
I think a good case study of how well the pneumonia vaccination works was highlighted in a recent trip my wife and I had to the United States. The last week of our trip we both started to feel sick. . As the week went on my wife suffered terribly with fever, coughing up mucus, pain around her lungs, exhaustion and feeling very unwell. My symptoms were just about identical but nowhere near the same extent to what she was going through. On our return to Australia my wife was diagnosed with viral pneumonia and was still sick for many weeks. My Doctor diagnosed me with a very mild dose of viral pneumonia however my recovery was quick and did not result in any days off work.
I had my pneumonia vaccine two years ago , my wife has not been vaccinated. Coincidence or not, for me our experience has left me in no doubt having a pneumonia vaccination is a great step in the defence against contracting this debilitating lung infection.