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Pneumonia Can Strike Rapidly

Half the cases are caused by viruses, so here are tips to avoid infection

SATURDAY, Nov. 8, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Although pneumonia can happen to anyone at any time, it often follows a cold or the flu and is particularly common in the fall and winter.

Some 50 percent of all pneumonia cases are caused by viruses. These infections, which tend to cluster in the fall and winter months, are marked in the beginning by a dry cough, headache, fever and muscle pain. Viral pneumonia can lead to bacterial pneumonia.

The latter type of pneumonia can also follow upper respiratory infections such as colds or the flu. Symptoms include shaking, chills, high fever, chest pain and a phlegm-producing cough.

The very young, very old and those with suppressed immune systems are at particular risk.

Even though there are treatments for the various types of pneumonia, the illness can be fatal. Your best bet is to avoid falling ill in the first place. Try these prevention tips from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Get your annual flu vaccine. If you don't fall ill with the flu, you also lower your chances of getting pneumonia.
  • If you're over the age of 65 or have a chronic illness, immunosuppression or have had your spleen removed, talk to your doctor about getting a pneumonia vaccine as well.
  • Also talk to your pediatrician about getting a Prevnar vaccine for children younger than 3 or older children who have a chronic disease or immune system suppression.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Don't smoke, because this weakens your lungs' ability to fight off disease.
  • Eat plenty of apples, pears and other fruits high in flavonoids; they seem to have a protective effect on your lungs.
  • Follow the general rules of good health: get proper rest and exercise and eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

More information

The American Lung Association has more details on pneumonia.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic
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