Pneumonia - The Vaccine for You?

Most people have heard of pneumonia as it is in fact one of the most common respiratory conditions in the world. Often the body is able to fight off the infection in your lungs but it can be very serious for those who are older or in poor health. As a result of this for various groups of people doctors recommend vaccines that help prevent this disease.

As is well known in Western countries vaccines work by introducing the body to a small amount of the disease-causing organism. This allows the body to recognize these bugs in the future so that the body can mount a sufficient and effective attack against them.

What vaccines work?

Two vaccines may help protect you against pneumonia. The first of the two is known as the pneumococcal vaccine and the other is the flu vaccine. Although the flu vaccine does not directly protect you from pneumonia, it prevents you from getting the flu. It is important to prevent the flu because when you are sick your body is weakened and you are more likely to get other diseases such as pneumonia.

Evidence is becoming stronger to support that the pneumococcal vaccine helps to protect you against invasive pneumonia. Invasive pneumonia refers to a complication of pneumonia whereby the infection spreads out of the lungs and into the rest of the body. The bacterium that is used in the virus is dead and as a result cannot harm you i.e. it can not give you pneumonia or any other illness. It is also important to note that the pneumococcal vaccine is designed to protect against the most common form of pneumonia. The most common side effects include muscle and/or joint pains. Most people only require the pneumococcal vaccine once in their lifetime.

However those with spleen problems or those with a weak immune system require another vaccination after five years. Make sure you ask your doctor if this vaccine is right for you.

The flu vaccine

If you get the flu then evidence shows that you have a higher chance of getting pneumonia. This means that if you have the flu vaccine you will most likely lower your risk of getting pneumonia. Along with this there is evidence, which shows that elderly people in nursing homes are less likely to get pneumonia if they have received the flu vaccination. Now the flu vaccination is not like many vaccinations that you can get once and be protected for years, with the flu vaccine you must get it every year. You usually get this in summer or fall, so that you are protected when the winter months come around. Also there is no need to worry about getting the injection as it will not give you the flu and one of the worst things that can happen is a little bit of pain associated with the needle going in. The only known side effects that some people get are a temperature and joint or muscle pains. It can also be said that you should not receive the flu vaccine if you have a severe allergy to eggs. This is because the flu vaccine is made using eggs. These kind of allergic reactions, which are known as anaphylactic reactions, are very rare. If you are concerned that you may be allergic to eggs or have had any problems with vaccinations in the past then consult your family doctor before getting a vaccination.

Do I need a flu vaccine or pneumococcal vaccine?

There are several reasons why someone should receive the pneumococcal vaccine and some of the reasons are as follows:

  • You are 65 years of age or older.
  • You have a lung condition such as emphysema or severe asthma.
  • You have a long-term illness, such as heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease and/or diabetes, sickle cell disease, or a problem with your spleen.
  • If you have a weakened immune system such that you may be getting chemotherapy or steroid treatment, or you have HIV or AIDS.

It is important to note that there is a special type of pneumococcal vaccine for children. This is suitable and recommended for all children under two years of age. This vaccine is given in two or three doses that are one or two months apart. The first of these doses is usually given at two months of age. In children who are under five years of age who may be at risk of illnesses caused by the pneumococcal bug, they should also be vaccinated even though they are not under two years of age. These bacteria can also cause meningitis or blood poisoning in children, as well as pneumonia, so this is even more reason to get your child or grandchild immunized.

The flu vaccination is especially recommended in those who are:

  • 65 years or older.
  • Living in a nursing home.
  • Suffering from a long term illness, such as heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes, sickle cell disease, or a problem with your spleen.
  • Suffering from a lung condition such as emphysema or severe asthma.
  • Subject to a weakened immune system i.e. those who are undergoing chemotherapy or steroid treatment, or those with HIV or AIDS.
  • Living or working with someone who could get very ill if they had the flu. This includes healthcare workers and people who work at nursing homes.

More recently some people have caught pneumonia after having the swine flu illness. So people should also be vaccinated against this new strain of flu. In fact most new flu vaccinations will include protection against this swine flu illness.

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