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World Pneumonia Day (November 12)

Written and medically reviewed by Dorcas Morak, Pharm.D

On November 12, the world celebrates World Pneumonia Day, which aims to raise awareness of the disease and encourage people to unite in the battle against it.

Pneumonia often starts as mild flu and degenerates into a life-threatening infection. Many people are unaware of the importance of treating it early. Therefore, World Pneumonia Day seeks to inform the public about pneumonia, encourage early diagnosis and treatment, and advocate making pneumonia vaccines and medications widely available.

What are the Facts about Pneumonia?

Do you know that:

  • Pneumonia is the world’s number one killer of children under 5 years.
  • Pneumonia has more than 30 different causes.
  • Breastfeeding helps the baby to fight pneumonia.
  • Pneumonia kills more children than AIDS, measles, and malaria together.
  • There are 24.8 cases per 10,000 adults yearly in the United States. The rate increases with age.
  • Pneumonia compromises lung health.
  • The pneumonia death rate is higher in adults above 65 years.
  • The flu shot reduces your risk of pneumonia.

What Causes Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung infection that causes an accumulation of fluid or mucus in the lung, which makes it harder for the alveoli to exchange oxygen between the blood and the lungs. Some of the causes of pneumonia are:

  • Viruses.
  • Bacteria.
  • Fungus.
  • Progressive lung diseases.
  • Smoking.
  • Use of a ventilator.
  • Other upper respiratory infections.
  • Inhalation of food, stomach acid, or saliva (aspiration pneumonia).

What are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

Your symptoms depend on the cause. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Bluish color to lips and fingernails.
  • Delirium in old people.
  • Cough with green, yellow, or bloody mucus.
  • Fever.
  • Heavy sweating.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue.
  • Rapid pulse.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Chest pain worse when coughing.
  • Shortness of breath; worse during activity.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle pain.

What are the Risk Factors for Pneumonia?

Age and some disease conditions are the main risk factors for pneumonia. These include:

  • Sickle cell disease.
  • AIDS.
  • Chronic renal failure.
  • Leukemia.
  • Hodgkin’s disease.
  • Solid organ transplant.
  • Multiple myeloma.
  • Smoking.
  • Alcohol use disorder.
  • Chronic heart disease.
  • Chronic liver disease.
  • Age: 65 years and above.
  • COPD, emphysema, and asthma.
  • Diabetes mellitus.

What are the Treatment Options for Pneumonia?

The treatment option for pneumonia depends on the type and severity of your pneumonia, your age, and your overall health. The options include:

  • Antibiotics: antibiotics are used for bacterial pneumonia. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics like levofloxacin, delafloxacin (Baxdela), azithromycin (Zithromax), aztreonam (Azactam), clindamycin (Cleocin), etc.
  • Cough medicine: you can suppress your cough with cough medicine but it is not advisable to eliminate it. This is because coughing helps loosen and move fluid from your lungs.
  • Pain/fever relievers: you can soothe your pain and fever using acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, or ibuprofen (Advil).

What Instances Would You be Hospitalized for Pneumonia?

If you are in these categories, you may be hospitalized to receive your treatment:

  • You are 65 years or older.
  • Show confusion.
  • Have kidney impairment.
  • Have hypotension: systolic less than 90 mmHg and diastolic less than 60 mmHg.
  • Have a high breathing rate (greater than 30 breaths per minute).
  • Have lower temperature than normal.
  • Abnormal heart rate (less than 50 or greater than 100). Children in this category may be hospitalized if:
  • Younger than age 2 months.
  • Sleep excessively.
  • Have trouble breathing.
  • Have low blood oxygen level.
  • Dehydrated.

What are the Prevention Measures for Pneumonia?

You can prevent pneumonia with the following steps

  • Get a pneumonia vaccine: The vaccine will not eliminate the risk of having pneumonia but will reduce the severity of the infection when you have it. These are the four licensed vaccines for pneumonia in the United State: PCV13 (Prevnar 13 ), PCV15 (Vaxneuvance), PCV20 (Prevnar 20), PPSV23 (Pneumovax 23)
  • Wash your hands: Though pneumonia isn't contagious, regular hand washing can prevent transferring the causative organisms into your respiratory system.
  • Avoid exposure to sick people: This is because most respiratory infections are spread through tiny droplets in the air or on the surfaces we touch.
  • Encourage others to cover their cough or sneeze.
  • Maintain good hygiene.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Limit your exposure to harmful chemicals or pollution.
  • Drink enough water.
  • Boost your immune system with a supplement like vitamin C and zinc.

What are the Complications of Pneumonia?

Possible complications of pneumonia, which are more common in people with a poor immune system or co-morbidity, include:

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
  • Lung abscesses.
  • Respiratory failure.
  • Sepsis.

How to Get Involved in World Pneumonia Day?

Join hands to raise awareness about pneumonia by:

  • Watch the Virtual World Pneumonia Day Webinar: “Fighting Pneumonia: An Agenda for Action,” on 14 November 2022
  • Talk about pneumonia with those in your circle.
  • Wear a pearl ribbon on your shirt.
  • Participate in awareness campaigns.
  • Help those who have pneumonia by donating to the clinic or hospital they use.

You can also help people suffering with pneumonia afford their medications. The programs found on rxless are free to use and accepted at over 70,000 pharmacies nationwide including CVS pharmacy, Rite Aid, and Walgreens pharmacy.