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Say No to Pneumonia: 5 Ways to Avoid Getting Seriously Sick

By Fahad Alam, MD October 17, 2023 Posted in: Wellness

Anyone can get pneumonia, and it’s more common than you might think. Pneumonia is the most common cause of hospital admissions for U.S. adults, other than women giving birth.

Complications, which include respiratory failure, sepsis and lung abscess, can be serious and require hospitalization. It can also be deadly, especially for adults over age 65, children younger than 5, those with weakened immune systems or other health problems, and those who smoke. 

What Causes Pneumonia?

Often, what starts as a routine illness turns into pneumonia. Viral pneumonia has dozens of causes, but the most common include flu (influenza), RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and COVID-19. Bacterial pneumonia can be caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae (from ear and sinus infections, for example) or mycoplasma pneumoniae (a contagious bacteria).

What are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

Know the symptoms of pneumonia and seek medical care right away. These include:

  • Fever
  • Wheezing
  • Cough
  • Chills 
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Loss of appetite and malaise (tiredness)
  • Generally feeling ill/weak

How to Avoid Pneumonia

The best approach to pneumonia is to avoid getting it in the first place, if possible. Here’s five things you can do to avoid this serious illness: 

Get your immunizations, including that yearly flu shot. Influenza is a common cause of pneumonia, so immunization helps reduce your risk. Each of the following immunizations that can help prevent infection by some of the bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia:

  • Flu
  • COVID-19
  • RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)
  • Pneumococcal pneumonia (most common type of bacterial pneumonia)
  • Hib (Haemophilus influenzae)
  • Measles
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Chicken pox (varicella)

If you’re sick or have a medical condition, take care of yourself. Conditions like heart disease or diabetes put you at greater risk of complications, so keeping these medical issues in check can lower your chances of serious illness.

If you smoke, quit. Smoking increases your risk of complications and serious illness. If you’re still smoking, it’s even more important to get all appropriate vaccinations.

Practice healthy habits to avoid getting sick. 

  • Wash your hands
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Get adequate rest
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don’t smoke

If you have any concerns or aren’t sure about immunizations that may help you avoid pneumonia, talk to your health care provider. We want to help you and your loved ones avoid this serious illness. 


Fahad Alam, MD
Fahad Alam, MD

Fahad Alam, MD, is an internal medicine doctor at CHI Health.

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