The warm weather makes it hard to imagine that the winter is on its way, but the cold temperatures are just around the corner!  And with those cooler temperatures comes the increased risk of pneumonia, especially for very young children and seniors. Therefore, it is important to get the pneumonia vaccine during this time of the year. Overall, having a winter safety checklist could prevent challenges, especially for our seniors.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause mild to severe illness in people of all ages. However, children younger than five years of age and adults over 65 years of age are at greater risk of becoming severely ill.  Additionally, people who have medical conditions that put their immune system at risk, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease – and those who smoke – are also at increased risk of complications from pneumonia. The symptoms of pneumonia usually include coughing, fever and breathing difficulty or shortness of breath.  Pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics or antiviral medications, but can also be prevented through pneumonia vaccines that are readily available.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Each year in the United States, about one million people are hospitalized with pneumonia, and about 50,000 people die from the disease.”  This is unfortunate, because many of these illnesses and deaths can be prevented with a pneumonia vaccine. It is now recommended that adults over the age of 65 get two different pneumococcal vaccines. The first is called PCV13, also known as Prevnar, followed by the PPSV23 vaccine, which is given six to 12 months later.  Individuals over the age of 65 who have already received the PPSV23 should receive one dose of the Prevnar as well, at least one year later.

There are many types of viruses and bacteria that can cause pneumonia, so it is extremely important that you see a doctor if you are exhibiting symptoms. It is important to know the cause of the illness so the proper medication can be used to treat it.

If you are over the age of 65, have any of the diseases that put you at a higher risk for developing pneumonia, or are a smoker, speak with your doctor today about the importance of being vaccinated for pneumonia.

Ellyn Troisi, RN, MPH, FNP-C, is the Employee Health Nurse Practitioner at the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. 

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