Pneumonia: Transmission & Prevention

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Pneumonia can be a deadly disorder. This is why you need to know how it is spread and how to protect yourself via numerous preventative strategies. This lesson covers how pneumonia develops and what you can do to avoid contracting pneumonia.

Defining Pneumonia

Is someone coughing or sneezing where you work, live, or play? It may be best to avoid them. Yes, this helps prevent you from getting the cold or flu, of course. But there is another reason. You might get pneumonia as well. Pneumonia refers to an abnormal condition of the lungs that is characterized by inflammation, most commonly as a result of infectious agents such as viruses and bacteria.

Pneumonia causes many unpleasant signs and symptoms.

Let's find out how pneumonia is transmitted in more detail and learn how it can be prevented.

Transmission of Pneumonia

As you just found out, pneumonia can be spread by way of someone sneezing or coughing. When a person sneezes or coughs, little droplets spread throughout the air. These droplets contain the infectious organism. They are then inhaled and may, in some instances, cause pneumonia. This is especially true for people who are already sick as a result of something like the flu or, worse, AIDS.

However, you can actually get pneumonia in ways other than someone sneezing in your face. See, pneumonia can be caused by bacteria or viruses that are already in your nose and throat. If these organisms spread to the lungs from there, they may cause pneumonia.

However, not all cases of pneumonia are caused by transmissible organisms. For example, aspiration pneumonia can occur when someone inhales an unwanted substance, like vomit, into their lungs.

Note how fluid buildup in the lungs is a part of pneumonia.

Prevention of Pneumonia

The prevention of pneumonia depends upon its cause. If it's caused by transmissible organisms, then a person can get vaccinated either against a particular infectious agent known to cause pneumonia or against an infectious agent (such as the flu) that predisposes the person to potentially developing pneumonia. This is why the yearly flu vaccine is far more than just a vaccine against influenza; in a way, it's also a preventative measure against pneumonia.

Other ways by which someone can prevent pneumonia include:

  • The cessation of smoking. This is because smoke damages the respiratory system and makes it more likely someone will get pneumonia.
  • Good hand hygiene. This is done to get rid of infectious organisms that accumulate on the hands, ones that may be rubbed on the mouth or nose. Good hand hygiene means washing hands regularly and/or using hand sanitizer to kill the germs.
  • Wearing masks in dusty or moldy areas to prevent the inhalation of potentially dangerous organisms.
  • A drug regimen that includes the use of antibiotics in people with compromised immune systems. This is done to to minimize the chances of people getting bacterial pneumonia due to their weak internal defense systems.
  • Post-stroke therapy that teaches a person how to eat if they have difficulty swallowing. This helps prevent aspiration pneumonia.

And you can help prevent someone from getting pneumonia too! If you see a friend or family member passed out on the floor for any reason, turn them to their side (unless you suspect a neck or back injury). This will help ensure they don't choke on their own vomit and cause aspiration pneumonia, if not death.

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