This last article in our pneumonia prevention and risk series highlights several common conditions and situations. Alteration of the immune system by diseases such as cancer or the chemotherapy used to treat many of its forms, is associated with an increased pneumonia risk. Patients with HIV characteristically have an increased incidence of pneumonia, often of exotic varieties. Smoking is a major risk factor for pneumonia.
Smokers have as much as a 400% increased risk of pneumonia over the non-smoking population. About 30% of pneumonias could be avoided if smoking was eliminated. This increased risk in smokers continues for at least 2 years after quitting. Alcoholism and poor general health, along with low body weight, contribute to an increased risk of pneumonia. The amount of alcohol consumed is more important than the type. Few studies have looked at the association between pneumonia and occupational and work-related exposures. However, work exposures such as coal dust, cadmium, cotton dust and others can lead to COPD, which is a risk factor for pneumonia. Cold air exposure increases pneumonia risk. Living with children under the age of 15 and households of more than 10 individuals increases the pneumonia risk.
Ok, so what do you do now. Some of the risk factors mentioned in these three articles can be lessened. Vaccination with a pneumonia vaccine called Prevnar 13 can help reduce risk. Continue to do the simple things like washing your hands and staying away from children and adults who are sick.