Protecting children and the elderly from pneumonia

Winning the battle vs. pneumonia: MSD Philippines team, led by (3rd from left) Dr. Beaver Tamesis, MSD Philippines managing director, joins (4th from left) Dr. John Grabenstein, executive director for Global Health & Medical Affairs for Merck Vaccines, and (center) Dr Cybele Lara Abad, adult infectious disease specialist and consultant, Medical City at the recent symposium on pneumococcal vaccination organized by MSD in the Philippines.

Protecting children and the elderly from pneumonia

CONSUMERLINE - Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) - September 4, 2017 - 4:00pm

Pneumonia. Mere mention of the word is enough to send chills down our spine. It is more common than we think (and more deadly than we think). With the flu season on (flu is a common cause of pneumonia), we asked Dr. Cybele Abad, infectious diseases specialist, Medical City and UP-PGH what we’ve always wanted to know about pneumonia but didn’t know who to ask:

PHILIPPINE STAR: In layman’s language, what is pneumonia? What can cause it?

DR. CYBELE ABAD: Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It has many causes — both bacteria and viruses cause pneumonia.

A lot of Filipino babies are born with what is called primary complex. Does that make them prone to pneumonia?

Not usually. Primary complex is often an acute infection of children from tuberculosis. It does not make them prone to pneumonia.

How do we protect children and adults from pneumonia?

The best way to protect children and adults from pneumonia is to vaccinate.

What kind of lifestyle or diet will help adults to avoid pneumonia?

The risk of acquiring pneumonia is a function of age, more than anything. Being very young (one year old) or very old (65 and up) makes one more prone to pneumonia because the immune system has not yet matured, in the case of infants, or is waning/aging, in the case of the elderly.

Smoking increases the risk of pneumonia, because it destroys the defense mechanisms of the lungs and airways, so smoking cessation helps.

Is pneumonia fatal?

Yes, pneumonia can be fatal, especially in very young and very old individuals. (Data show it’s the leading cause of death among children under five years old. It can lead to fluid around the lungs, cause infection in the blood, which can infect the brain and other organs.)

Are there supplements we can take to ward off pneumonia? How do we make our lungs strong?

I am not aware of any supplements that can directly ward off pneumonia. However, there are some studies that show that vitamin D supplementation may lower the risk of  respiratory infections in general. But these studies still need to be validated.

Avoiding substances that harm the lungs, such as smoking, will help protect the lungs from damage.

Can smoking cause pneumonia?

Yes, indirectly, by damaging the protective mechanisms of the respiratory system.

What are the new breakthroughs in the treatment of pneumonia?

Pneumonia used to be universally fatal before the advent of antimicrobials. Now, most can be effectively treated.  Vaccines for prevention have also decreased mortality and morbidity from pneumonia.

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