Pneumonia is a lung infection. It’s not contagious, but it’s often caused by upper respiratory tract infections in the nose and throat, which may be contagious.
Pneumonia can happen to anyone, at any age. Babies under age 2 and adults over age 65 are at higher risk. Other risk factors include:
- living in a hospice or institutionalized setting
- using a ventilator
- frequent hospitalizations
- a weakened immune system
- a progressive lung disease, such as COPD
- heart disease
- smoking cigarettes
People at risk for aspiration pneumonia include those who:
- overuse alcohol or recreational drugs
- have medical issues affecting their gag reflexes, such as a brain injury or trouble swallowing
- are recovering from surgical procedures that required anesthesia
- Aspiration pneumonia is a specific type of lung infection that is caused by accidentally inhaling saliva, food, fluid, or vomit into your lungs. It’s not contagious.
Tips to prevent Pneumonia
Get a flu shot every year to prevent seasonal influenza. The flu is a common cause of pneumonia, so preventing the flu is a good way to prevent pneumonia.
Children younger than 5 and adults 65 and older should get vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia, a common form of bacterial pneumonia. The pneumococcal vaccine is also recommended for all children and adults who are at increased risk of pneumococcal disease due to other health conditions. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccine. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if one of them is right for you.
There are several other vaccines that can prevent infections by bacteria and viruses that may lead to pneumonia, including pertussis (whooping cough), chickenpox, and measles. Please talk to your doctor about whether you and your children are up to date on your vaccines and to determine if any of these vaccines are appropriate for you.
Wash Your Hands
One of the best ways to keep yourself healthy and avoid getting sick is to wash your hands regularly. Use warm water and soap, and get a good lather going for at least 20 seconds. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a clean towel, or allow your hands to air dry. In addition, avoid touching your face and eyes
Smoking hurts your lungs and makes it harder for them to fight off infections like pneumonia. Smokers are also at greater risk of life-threatening pneumonia and the other illnesses that can come from it.
Quitting smoking will help your lungs become stronger and better able to fight infection. That’ll make it less likely that you’ll get pneumonia. If you do, it’ll be more likely that you can fight it.
If you smoke, in addition to the flu vaccine, talk with your doctor about the pneumococcal vaccine.
Don’t Drink, or Drink Less
When you abuse alcohol, your body is not as able to fight infection and stay healthy. Heavy drinkers are at greater risk for getting pneumonia and its complications. Experts recommend that women drink no more than one alcoholic beverage a day. Men should drink no more than two.
Take Care of Yourself
One of your best defenses against infection is a strong immune system. You can help yours if you:
- Get regular exercise.
- Follow a diet full of fruits and vegetables.
- Get enough sleep.
- Ease stress.