Aspirus Health shares advice for guarding against pneumonia

For the Tomahawk Leader

WISCONSIN – Aspirus Health recently shared information to help the public understand and protect against pneumonia.

“Pneumonia is a serious lung infection that can affect anyone, from babies to the elderly, and it can be very dangerous,” Aspirus stated. “According to the American Lung Association (ALA), more than a million people are hospitalized, and over 50,000 lives are claimed by pneumonia each year.”

Pneumonia, as described by Samuel Staehling, MD, Aspirus Wausau Family Medicine Resident, is an infection of the lung tissue, specifically impacting the delicate structures involved in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This infection is primarily caused by pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi, which are commonly spread through the inhalation of these microorganisms.

“The biggest risk for contracting pneumonia is posed to older adults, very young children, hospitalized patients, immunocompromised individuals and those with chronic comorbidities like lung disease, heart disease or diabetes,” Staehling stated.

Staehling. Photo courtesy of Aspirus.

Staehling underscored the link between viral upper respiratory infections and the development of pneumonia and explained that these infections can weaken the immune system, particularly in the lungs, making individuals more susceptible to pneumonia.

“However, there are proactive steps that everyone can take to reduce their risk,” Aspirus stated.

“The most fundamental preventive measure for everyone is good hygiene, emphasizing proper handwashing and the use of alcohol-based sanitizers,” Staehling said.

Aspirus said vaccination has also proven to be a powerful tool in the fight against pneumonia. Pneumonia vaccines are commonly administered to children and older adults.

“These vaccines play a vital role in preventing pneumonia, especially in high-risk groups,” Aspirus stated.

Staehling also recommended maintaining a strong immune system through healthy habits to bolster one’s defenses against the condition.

“Getting sufficient sleep, eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can all contribute to a robust immune response,” Aspirus stated. “Sometimes getting sick is inevitable, though. Recognizing signs of pneumonia is essential for early diagnosis and treatment.”

Staehling outlined the common symptoms of pneumonia:

  • A productive cough (producing phlegm), which distinguishes it from a dry viral cough.
  • Chest pain, particularly when breathing or coughing.
  • Elevated fever, chills, and sweats, more severe than typical respiratory infections.
  • Shortness of breath, which may necessitate oxygen therapy.

“If breathing becomes extremely difficult, requiring additional oxygen support, it’s a clear indication to seek medical attention,” Staehling stated. “Likewise, persistent high fever, the presence of productive green phlegm or pus in your cough should prompt a visit to a health care professional.”

 “It’s important to know that pneumonia can be serious, but there are ways to protect yourself and get treatment if you need it,” Aspirus said. “Talk to your primary care provider to learn more about your individual risk factors and recommended preventative measures.”

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