by Asma Khan, MD
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, such as coughing up mucus, fever, and shortness of breath.
The number one action step to help you prevent getting pneumonia is to get your flu shot every year. Seasonal influenza is a common cause of pneumonia, so getting your flu shot is a great way to help prevent it. It’s also important to remember to wash your hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose, using the bathroom, and before preparing or eating food.
Being aware of your general health is a great preventive measure. Be sure to get plenty of rest, eat well, and exercise regularly to help prevent you from getting sick from viruses and 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 is 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 is 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.
Asma Khan, MD, is the Clinical Director at HRHCare Urgent Care, 84 N Highland Ave between High Street and Sickles Ave in Nyack. Along with offices in Haverstraw and Spring Valley, the facility is part of the 28 health center HRHCare network in the Hudson Valley and Long Island providing comprehensive primary care.