ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- As winter's chill sets in, pneumonia can trigger life-threatening side effects for patients across Rockland County.
“Pneumonia, an infection of the lung tissue, can be caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi," said Dr. David Hodes, a pulmonologist at Highland Medical, P.C. in West Nyack, N.Y. "Older adults and people with chronic diseases, including COPD, asthma, diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease, are at higher risk for bacterial pneumonia. While there are many types of pneumonia risk can be reduced substantially through vaccination.”
"Many people don’t realize one of the most important ways to protect yourself against pneumonia is by getting an annual influenza vaccine," said Hodes. The flu is a common cause of some of the most serious strains of pneumonia, so receiving a flu shot is one way to help prevent contracting the illness.
Other ways to prevent pneumonia are:
- Washing hands frequently
- Regularly disinfecting frequently touched surfaces
- Taking good care of additional medical problems
- Quitting smoking
Adults 65 and older should also get vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia, which is caused by certain bacteria. “This bacteria produces a potentially serious kind of pneumonia, which often requires prompt hospitalization,” said Hodes. The pneumococcal vaccine is also recommended for adults who are at an increased risk of developing the disease due to health conditions such as chronic illnesses or immune system deficiencies.
Pneumonia symptoms can include cough, fever, shaking, chills and shortness of breath. Doctors can diagnose pneumonia with a physical exam and chest X-ray, looking for mucus in the lungs and crackling or rumbling sounds when patients inhale.
Once diagnosed, pneumonia treatment depends on a variety of factors. For milder cases of pneumonia, doctors may prescribe oral antibiotics and rest. Those who are hospitalized with more serious cases can receive intravenous antibiotics and can undergo additional breathing therapies. Pneumonia remission is often a slow process; in some cases, the infection's side effects can linger for weeks even after initial treatment.
“Pneumonia is a serious lung disease that kills thousands every year and hospitalizes many more,” said Hodes. “If you are over 65 or have a chronic disease and you haven’t had a pneumonia vaccine, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated to protect yourself.”
For more information via Highland Medical, click here.