Pneumonia is a scary word and not just because it’s hard to spell. According to the National Foundation for Infection Diseases the U.S., each year, one million adults will contract pneumonia, and 400,000 will end up hospitalized, of those hospitalized 5-7% of them will die. The percentage is even higher if you’re over 65.
I never fully understood what it meant to be in the sandwich generation until now. I was young when my mom juggled a world of three kids within four years and simultaneously cared for her aging parents. By the time I was a teenager, all of my grandparents had passed on. Now it’s my turn to oversee multi-generations and, to be honest, sometimes the responsibility feels daunting.
My mom is an 85-year-old cancer survivor, who is now wheelchair bound after a fall last spring. As you can imagine there are many things for me to worry about. With flu season coming, the one thing I can give my weary head a rest about is that she doesn’t balk at getting her pneumonia and flu vaccines. I don’t even have to remind her which is a blessing since becoming forgetful is sometimes a daily struggle.
The NFID site states, “Pneumonia is caused by a common type of bacteria, often presents itself with shaking chills, fever, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, chest pain that is worsened by breathing deeply and a productive cough.”
It is a scary disease at any age, but even more dangerous for the very young and old. In fact, Stop Pneumonia, an initiative to raise awareness of the dangers of pneumonia, claims “pneumonia is not only a leading cause of serious illness, but one of the leading infectious killers of children under 5.” The most vulnerable are the youngest and oldest in the poorest areas, and those whose immune systems are already compromised by other diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
For those of us who have experienced pneumonia firsthand, either in a loved one or ourselves, we’re aware how vulnerable and freighting the disease can be. Thankfully, in the U.S., safe vaccines are available and are recommended for all adults over 65 and for adults 19-64 if they suffer from asthma or diabetes. And, just in case you’re wondering, it is safe to get the pneumonia and flu vaccine at the same time.
November 12th is World Pneumonia Day . To learn more about pneumonia please visit http://www.nfid.org/pneumococcal or ask your healthcare professional. You can also stay update with the latest information NFID’s Facebook page. Protecting a loved one from the perils of pneumonia is within our reach. And if you’re a worrier like me, we can be feel grateful to have one less thing lose sleep over.
Stay healthy, my friends!
I was compensated by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases through an unrestricted educational grant from Merck & Co., Inc. All opinions are my own.