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How to Avoid Pneumonia in the Winter

Untreated pneumonia can have serious consequences. Stay healthy this winter by following these tips:

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Dayton Respiratory Center

Nov 11 2022

4 mins read

While winter is a season of celebration, it's also when we're most likely to get sick.

The cold weather weakens our immune systems — making us more susceptible to colds, the flu, and pneumonia. While colds and the flu are typically mild, pneumonia can be deadly.

Let's discuss why this is and how you can prevent it.

What Is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung infection caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi.

It leads to fluid build-up in the air sacs of one or both lungs — which limits oxygen transfer in your alveoli. This negatively affects both your breathing and your oxygen levels.

Pneumonia | Source: SIMS

Pneumonia is treatable, but serious cases can be life-threatening.

What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

Pneumonia symptoms can be mild or severe, depending on the microorganism causing it. Symptoms can also differ with age.

Some common symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • Cough with greenish, brown, or bloody mucus
  • Sharp chest pain while breathing
  • Fever, excess sweating, or chills
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Breathlessness
  • Confusion or changes in mental awareness (especially in the elderly)
  • Low body temperatures (especially in the elderly)

Is Pneumonia Contagious?

Pneumonia itself isn't contagious, but the microorganism that causes it can be.

Most medical facilities see an increase in pneumonia cases during the winter. You can, however, stay safe by taking a few preventive measures.

How Can I Prevent Pneumonia?

1. Get Vaccinated

Vaccines are one of the best ways to prevent pneumonia. They don't guarantee immunity, but they definitely reduce the risk of catching it.

There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines available:

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)
    • Protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria
    • CDC recommends PCV 13 or PCV 15 for children below 5 years and for those between 5-18 who are prone to pneumococcal disease
    • For adults above 18 years who haven't received any pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, CDC recommends PCV 15 or PCV20
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax)
    • Single dose vaccine that protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria
    • CDC recommends PPSV23 for children between 2-18 years of age who have a higher risk of pneumococcal disease and for adults above 19 years who have received PCV 15

2. Quit smoking

Smoking damages your lungs and reduces your ability to fight infections. Therefore, smokers are at higher risk of developing pneumonia.

If you find it hard to quit smoking, at least try reducing the number of puffs during winter (when pneumonia is more prevalent).

3. Wash Your Hands Frequently

Even though pneumonia isn't contagious, the viruses and bacteria that cause it can be passed from one person to another when the infected person coughs or sneezes.

When you come in contact with contaminated surfaces and then touch your mouth, eyes, or nose, the virus or bacteria finds a new home inside your body. These microorganisms start to take over, which makes you sick.

So washing your hands often — especially before eating, preparing food, or touching your face — can help prevent the disease.

4. Isolate Yourself From People Who Are Sick

Tiny water droplets in the air transmit microorganisms that cause respiratory infections. Staying away from sick people and avoiding crowded areas reduces your risk of infection.

However, if this isn't possible, practice the following steps:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Mask yourself
  • Avoid sharing personal items
  • Disinfect your household

5. Develop Healthy Habits

Your immune system can fight most diseases if you maintain healthy habits.


Your body's immunity strengthens with adequate rest, a balanced diet, and regular exercise. Making a few lifestyle changes gives your immune system the boost it needs to fight many diseases.

6. Get Medical Attention

Treating pneumonia as soon as possible gives you the best chance of recovery.

But because some symptoms of pneumonia are similar to the typical cold and flu, you may be tempted to overlook them. However, ignoring the warning signs delays your treatment — and, ultimately, worsens your condition.

Make sure you seek medical advice at the earliest when you experience any symptoms of pneumonia.


Pneumonia is a respiratory infection that can lead to severe complications.

However, you can take these precautions to avoid catching it in the first place: get vaccinated, quit smoking, frequently wash your hands, eat a healthy diet, and avoid contact with sick people.

It's also important to seek medical help as soon as you exhibit symptoms. Delaying treatment can worsen the condition and increase the risk of complications.

Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have pneumonia or need more information about vaccinations and treatments.

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