Raising Awareness on World Pneumonia Day
Pneumonia can be mistaken for a simple flu. It is an illness that can affect anyone and primarily affects the most vulnerable among us. Children younger than 2 and adults over 65 have the highest risk of contracting pneumonia. It is a cruel and complex infectious disease that attacks the lungs, causing inflammation of the lung sacs which then become filled with fluid. This causes coughing, fever, chills, and difficulty in breathing.
These signs and symptoms can range from mild to severe. The good news is that pneumonia is a treatable illness that gets a bad reputation for turning serious without proper medical attention and care.
It will not be an easy task to stop the spread of pneumonia, and an even harder one to eradicate the disease. The joint UN/WHO/UNICEF initiative ”Stop Pneumonia” aims to “Protect, Prevent, and Treat” the illness. November 12th is marked as World Pneumonia Day. It is an annual initiative that aims to raise awareness and to promote any actions that contribute to protecting, preventing, and treating pneumonia.
Which individuals have the most risk of contracting pneumonia?.
According to leading authority stoppneumonia.org, air pollution is the leading risk factor for death from pneumonia across all age groups. Almost a third of all pneumonia deaths are attributable to polluted air, killing around 749,200 in 2019. Household air pollution contributed to 423,000 of these deaths while outdoor air pollution contributed to 326,000.
Seniors older than the age of 65 are most at risk, as they tend to have health issues or weakened immune systems. Receiving proper care in a timely matter is vital to fighting the infection before it becomes life-threatening.
A couple of years ago, my friend’s father was in England. He was 55 at the time, and out one evening, caught in a downpour. He developed a chill the next day, and started coughing until his lungs hurt. He assumed it was a cold or maybe the flu. His wife advised him to get it checked out, and made a trip to the ER where he was examined by a doctor. When the test results came out, he was told by the doctor that he had something called “empyema” - a complication from bacterial pneumonia, where pus from the infection builds up in the pleural space in the lungs. He needed surgery right away to remove the bacteria. After the operation, it took some time for him to recover, and he had to have respiratory therapy to regain the strength in his lungs. He lost a lot of weight in the process, but thankfully, because he was fit and active, he managed to heal quickly.
Be informed, take these proactive steps to prevent your loved ones - especially the elderly from getting pneumonia.
Get Vaccinated. Vaccines are readily available and can prevent or reduce the severity of pneumonia caused by bacteria. It’s best to get vaccinated yearly, since the flu can lead to pneumonia.
Maintain Good Hygiene. Following good hygiene practices can also help prevent pneumonia. This includes washing your hands regularly, covering your face with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and cleaning surfaces (such as door handles) that you touch frequently.
Understand and Take Care of Your Medical Conditions. People who have chronic medical problems such as diabetes, lung disease, or weakened immune systems are at higher risk for getting pneumonia. Be sure to take prescribed medications in a timely manner.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle. Quit smoking. It helps tremendously. Exercise, exercise, exercise regularly, and be sure to eat healthily and maintain a suitable diet.