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Pneumonia: How to avoid joining the unfortunate millions

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Medical professionals say that pneumonia needlessly affects millions of people worldwide each year.

It is a disease that can often be prevented and can usually be treated – providing it is caught early enough once symptoms have started to appear.

There are also numerous ways that the risk of pneumonia can be reduced.

The British Lung Foundation – BLF – says that smokers have an increased risk of developing pneumonia as well as other chest infections – and so do children whose parents smoke.

The viral infections that are common in winter can increase the risk of pneumonia. Therefore, it's important to practise good hygiene to reduce the spread of germs, and to use a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of it immediately. It is worth remembering that people who are otherwise healthy tend to recover quickly when given prompt and appropriate care.

Standard health advice applies here. Don't drink excessive amounts of alcohol, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and get plenty of rest.

However, the elderly or those with chronic illnesses, such as Parkinson's disease, often develop a severe infection that needs prompt and often intensive treatment in hospital.

Doctors say it is vital that people don't wait for symptoms to get worse as this increases the chance of developing a condition that may require emergency treatment.

There are two types of vaccine available for pneumonia, but they only protect against the most serious cases caused by the commonest bacteria, which is called Streptococcus pneumoniae.

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They are aimed at protecting anyone for whom pneumonia is likely to be more common or serious, including young babies and older people.

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine – PCV – is provided to infants by the NHS, with the first dose given at two months old.

The second type of vaccine, pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine – PPV – is available for adults over the age of 65 and anyone over the age of two who falls into a high-risk category.

Most adults will only need to have it once.

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It is also a good idea for those who are at risk of developing pneumonia to have the flu vaccine, as flu can sometimes lead to pneumonia.

This vaccination has to be given each winter and is available at many high street chemists. Some people are eligible to receive the vaccine for free.

To find out more talk to your GP or call the BLF Helpline on 03000 030 555.

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