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How Can Pneumonia Be Prevented?

Pneumonia can be very serious and even life threatening. When possible, take steps to prevent the infection, especially if you're in a high-risk group.

Vaccines

Vaccines are available to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia and the flu. Vaccines can't prevent all cases of infection. However, compared to people who don't get vaccinated, those who do and still get pneumonia tend to have:

  • Milder cases of the infection
  • Pneumonia that doesn't last as long
  • Fewer serious complications

Pneumococcal Pneumonia Vaccine

A vaccine is available to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia. In most adults, one shot is good for at least 5 years of protection. This vaccine often is recommended for:

  • People who are 65 years old or older.
  • People who have chronic (ongoing) diseases, serious long-term health problems, or weak immune systems. For example, this may include people who have cancer, HIV/AIDS, asthma, or damaged or removed spleens.
  • People who smoke.
  • Children who are younger than 5 years old.
  • Children who are 5–18 years of age with certain medical conditions, such as heart or lung diseases or cancer. For more information, talk with your child's doctor.

For more information about the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Vaccines and Preventable Diseases: Pneumococcal Vaccination Web page.

Influenza Vaccine

The vaccine that helps prevent the flu is good for 1 year. It's usually given in October or November, before peak flu season.

Because many people get pneumonia after having the flu, this vaccine also helps prevent pneumonia.

For more information about the influenza vaccine, go to the CDC's Vaccines and Preventable Diseases: Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Vaccination Web page.

Hib Vaccine

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is a type of bacteria that can cause pneumonia and meningitis (men-in-JI-tis). (Meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord.) The Hib vaccine is given to children to help prevent these infections.

The vaccine is recommended for all children in the United States who are younger than 5 years old. The vaccine often is given to infants starting at 2 months of age.

For more information about the Hib vaccine, go to the CDC's Vaccines and Preventable Diseases: Hib Vaccination Web page.

Other Ways To Help Prevent Pneumonia

You also can take the following steps to help prevent pneumonia:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based rubs to kill germs.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking damages your lungs' ability to filter out and defend against germs. For information about how to quit smoking, go to the Health Topics Smoking and Your Heart article. Although this resource focuses on heart health, it includes general information about how to quit smoking.
  • Keep your immune system strong. Get plenty of rest and physical activity and follow a healthy diet.

If you have pneumonia, limit contact with family and friends. Cover your nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing, and get rid of used tissues right away. These actions help keep the infection from spreading.

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Pneumonia Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Pneumonia, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.

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Visit Children and Clinical Studies to hear experts, parents, and children talk about their experiences with clinical research.

 
March 01, 2011 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.