Asking your health care provider which vaccinations are recommended for adults is an important step in helping protect against respiratory infections like pneumococcal pneumonia. Many people think pneumococcal pneumonia is a cold or the flu, but it’s not. Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by bacteria that live in the upper respiratory tract, and it can spread to others through coughing or close contact.[i],[ii]
“Pneumococcal pneumonia can strike anytime, anywhere, and in any season, so now is the time to learn about how you can help prevent it,” said Dr. Nadine Tarcha, Gulf Medical Director at Pfizer. The immune system naturally weakens with age, so even if you’re healthy and active, being 65 or older is a key risk factor for pneumococcal pneumonia.”
Symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia
As a result of the bacteria that cause pneumococcal pneumonia, parts of the lungs may inflame and fill with mucus and cause the following symptoms:[iii]
- Fever and chills
- Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Confusion or low alertness in older adults
These symptoms, some of which are also common with other respiratory infections, such as a cold or flu, can range from mild to severe and often hit without warning. In some cases, symptoms may last for weeks or in serious cases, lead to hospitalization or death.[iv]
Identifying your risk of pneumococcal pneumonia
Anyone can become ill with pneumococcal pneumonia any time of year.[v] However, adults who are 65 years of age or older are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized with pneumonia, including pneumococcal pneumonia, than adults younger than 50.2,[vi] Additional risk factors include cigarette smoking and certain chronic health conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and diabetes.3
Preventing pneumococcal pneumonia
Like some other infectious respiratory illnesses, the risk of pneumococcal pneumonia can be lowered with vaccination and by employing healthy practices like washing your hands regularly, cleaning common surfaces and avoiding contact with sick people.4
To help prevent pneumococcal pneumonia, keep up with your regular wellness visits and talk to your health care provider about your risk for pneumococcal pneumonia and whether you are up to date on recommended vaccinations.
[i] Mayo Clinic. Pneumonia. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pneumonia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354204. Accessed April 23, 2021.
[ii] Know Pneumonia. What is Pneumococcal Pneumonia?. https://www.knowpneumonia.com/what-is-pneumococcal-pneumonia. Published 2021. Accessed January 20, 2022.
[iv] National Health Service (NHS). Pneumonia. Treatment. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pneumonia/treatment/. Updated June 30, 2019. Accessed April 23, 2021.
[v] Prevnar20. What is Pneumococcal Pneumonia? prevnar20.com/whatispneumococcalpneumonia#:~:text=it%20anytime%2C%20anywhere.,You%20can%20get%20it%20anytime%2C%20anywhere.,through%20coughing%20or%20close%20contact. Updated January 2022. Accessed May 24, 2022.
[vi] Ramirez JA, et al. Clin Infect Dis. 2017;65(11):1806-1812.