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Reviewed 4/11/2023

Pneumonia: True or false?

Every year, millions of people come down with pneumonia. Most cases are mild—but some require hospital care and can even be life-threatening. Do you know how to prevent this upper respiratory infection?

True or false: Only viruses cause pneumonia.

False. Respiratory viruses do cause many cases of pneumonia in the U.S., but bacteria and fungi can also cause the illness.

True or false: Vaccines can help prevent pneumonia.

True. In addition to the pneumococcal vaccine, there are vaccines for several other viruses that can cause pneumonia, including measles, whooping cough, chickenpox and the flu.

True or false: The pneumococcal vaccine only helps people 65 and older.

False. There are two pneumococcal vaccines, and one is recommended for all children under age 2. The other is recommended for people 65 and older. The vaccines are also important for people with long-term medical conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease; cancer or another condition that weakens the immune system; and diabetes.

True or false: If you have the flu, antibiotics are the best way to cure it and prevent pneumonia.

False. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, which means they can't fight viral infections like the flu—or pneumonia caused by a virus. Your doctor might prescribe an antiviral medication to treat viral pneumonia.

True or false: Good hygiene can help prevent pneumonia.

True. Some causes of pneumonia—like viruses and bacteria—are contagious. Wash your hands often to help avoid infections. And do your part to prevent the spread of illness by staying home if you're sick. Whenever you're out in public, cough or sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your elbow.

When it comes to preventing pneumonia, it's important to know all the factors that could increase your risk. Talk to a doctor about how you can reduce your risk factors, which may include getting vaccinated.

Check your risk factors

Sources: American Lung Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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