Pneumonia is an unpleasant illness at any age, but it’s more dangerous for some than others—especially this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Like the novel coronavirus, pneumonia is a respiratory virus that occurs when the lungs become inflamed or partially fill with fluid. Another similarity between pneumonia and COVID-19 is that people who experience it can have difficulty breathing because the lungs aren’t functioning correctly. Every year, pneumonia sends more than 250,000 Americans to the hospital. Fortunately, though, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself.
Pneumonia spreads through person-to-person contact. One of the difficult things about pneumonia is that there isn’t one single cause. It can be caused by many things, and there are certain risk factors that mean it affects some people worse than others.
People 65 and older are at a higher risk for pneumococcal disease. Additionally, if you:
These factors may increase your risk of getting pneumonia. Every year, about 1 million Americans are hospitalized with this illness.
There are some steps you can to prevent illness, which, during this pandemic, you are hopefully already taking! The most obvious step is as avoiding people who are already ill. Another important step to take is wearing a mask in public spaces, which helps prevent the spread of germs and viruses. One step that you might not think of is to make sure your home is clean and mold-free. This is important because the pneumococcal bacteria can live in certain fungi.
The final and most important step to take is to get vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. For seniors who have Medicare, Medicare Part B covers this vaccine. Even if you don’t have Medicare, most health insurance plans cover this vaccine, too. However, only about two-thirds of older adults get this vaccine. Be sure to ask your doctor about it before the weather starts getting really cold!