Pneumonia | Prevention


How can I prevent pneumonia?

You can help prevent pneumonia by doing the following:

Get the flu vaccine each year. People often develop bacterial pneumonia after a case of the flu. You can reduce this risk by getting the yearly flu shot. The flu shot doesn’t protect against all strains of the flu, just the 3 to 4 strains that doctors feel will be most dangerous or widespread in the coming year.

Get the pneumococcal vaccine. (See below for more information about the vaccine.)

Practice good hygiene. Your hands come in contact with many germs throughout the day. You pick them up from surfaces such as doorknobs, other people’s hands and your computer keyboard. Take time to wash your hands often, especially after using the restroom and before eating. Use lukewarm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the next best thing.

Don't smoke. Smoking damages your lungs and makes it harder for your body to defend itself from germs and disease. If you smoke, talk to your family doctor about quitting as soon as possible.

Practice a healthy lifestyle. Eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables. Exercise regularly. Get plenty of sleep. These things help your immune system stay strong.

Avoid sick people. Being around people who are sick increases your risk of catching what they have.

Is there a vaccine for pneumonia?

There isn’t a vaccine for all types of pneumonia, but 2 vaccines are available. The first is called the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV). It is recommended for all children younger than 5 years of age. The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) is recommended for children 2 years of age and older who are at increased risk for pneumonia (such as children who have weakened immune systems), and for adults who have risk factors for pneumonia. This vaccine is recommended if you: 

  • Are 65 years of age or older
  • Smoke
  • Abuse alcohol
  • Have certain chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or lung disease
  • Have cirrhosis
  • Have a condition that weakens your immune system, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), kidney failure or a damaged spleen
  • Have had your spleen removed for any reason
  • Have sickle cell disease
  • Have cochlear implants (an electronic device that helps you hear)
  • Are taking medicine for a recent organ transplant (these medicines suppress your immune system)
  • Are receiving chemotherapy

The pneumococcal vaccines can’t prevent all cases of pneumonia. But they can make it less likely that people who are at risk will experience the severe, and possibly life-threatening, complications of pneumonia.

Do the pneumococcal vaccines cause side effects?

Side effects of PCV are unusual, but can include the following:

  • Redness and tenderness at the injection site
  • Slight fever
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite

Side effects of PPSV are not common, but can include the following:

  • Redness and tenderness at the injection site
  • Muscle soreness
  • Slight fever

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 03/09