Every year since 2009, World Pneumonia Day has been observed on 12 November. In 2020, the theme for World Pneumonia Day is “Every Breath Counts”, a clarion call for global awareness and action against this respiratory infection which has claimed more lives than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pneumonia is an infection which occurs in either or both lungs and causes inflammation in the lungs as well as the respiratory tracts. Often, the lungs also fill up with mucus or other fluids, which makes respiration even more difficult. Data suggests that pneumonia is the single biggest infectious disease that kills millions of children and adults every year.
Risk factors associated with pneumonia
Because pneumonia is a severe complication of COVID-19 infection, the deaths due to pneumonia have increased during 2020. This makes the prevention of pneumonia even more crucial now. But to understand how to prevent pneumonia, you must first understand who is at most risk of contracting this infectious disease. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the following are the key groups of people at high risk of pneumonia:
- Infants under the age of 2 years
- Adults above the age of 65 years
- Those with a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS or autoimmune diseases
- People with health conditions that affect the heart or lungs
- Those with neurological conditions like dementia, Parkinson’s or stroke
- People who are hospitalised and require ventilation support
- Those who smoke or drink alcohol
- Pregnant women
- Those exposed to air pollution or secondhand smoke
There are two pneumonia vaccines, Pneumovax23 and Prevnar13, which prevent pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria. There are no vaccines that prevent viral pneumonia but taking the flu vaccine every year may prevent pneumonia as it can occur due to complications arising from viral infections like the flu and COVID-19. This apart, you can adopt the following lifestyle habits that can help you prevent pneumonia:
- Follow proper hand hygiene and wash your hands with soap and water regularly.
- Follow proper respiratory hygiene and wear a mask when stepping out, especially during an outbreak. Like COVID-19, pneumonia can also spread through droplet transmission.
- Avoid being around people who are sick or have pneumonia.
- Maintain hygiene and avoid touching shared objects. Pneumonia, like COVID-19, can be transmitted through high-touch surfaces.
- Quit smoking. Avoid secondhand smoke and exposure to air pollutants that can damage your lungs.
- Get treated for any infections you may have at the earliest to avoid its progression to pneumonia.
- Eat a healthy diet and get exercise and enough sleep. Maintaining these habits can strengthen your immune system, which can help fight off all infections including pneumonia.
For more information, read our article on Pneumonia.
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