The Wellness Corner … by Judith Wallace, RN, FCN



What do you know about pneumonia?  If you've been up front and personal with it (like I have), I'm sure you will agree that it isn't something to ignore!


Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs.  It is a serious illness that can affect people of any age, but it is most common and most dangerous in very young children, people older than 65, and people with underlying medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, or chronic lung disease.  Pneumonia is more common during the winter months.  About four million cases of community acquired pneumonia occur each year in the United States, and approximately 20 percent of those people require hospitalization.


Some groups of adults are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia.  You are considered at higher risk if you:

  • Are older than 65 years

  • Smoke cigarettes

  • Are malnourished due to health conditions or lack of access to food

  • Have underlying lung disease, including cystic fibrosis, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema)

  • Have other underlying medical problems, including diabetes or heart disease

  • Have a weakened immune system due to HIV, organ transplant, chemotherapy, or long-term use of steroid medications

  • Have difficulty coughing due to stroke, sedating drugs or alcohol, or limited mobility

  • Have had a recent viral upper respiratory tract infection including influenza 

Pneumonia is caused by viruses OR bacteria which means that sometimes traditional antibiotics aren't effective in treating it.

Common symptoms of pneumonia include any of the following:  fever, chills, shortness of breath, painful breathing, a rapid heart and breathing rate, sometimes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a cough that often produces green or yellow sputum (mucus from the lungs); occasionally, the sputum is rust colored.  Most people have a fever (temperature greater than 100.5 degrees F), although this is less common in older adults.  Sometimes older people do not get a fever.  Shaking chills and a change in mental status (confusion or unclear thinking) can also occur.

The characteristic symptoms of pneumonia are different from those of a more common infection, acute viral bronchitis, which does not usually cause fever and does not generally require treatment with an antibiotic.

Pneumonia is usually diagnosed with a medical history and physical examination as well as a chest X-ray.  The need for further testing depends upon the severity of the illness and the person's risk of complications.

Another concern is that the bacteria that cause pneumonia also causes thousands of potentially deadly infections, such as meningitis (an infection of the brain and spinal cord covering), bloodstream infections, pneumonia, and ear infections.

The important take away information here is: see your doctor promptly if you develop the symptoms listed above.  Don't wait to see how you feel tomorrow - pneumonia progresses rapidly.  Secondly, take steps to protect yourself.

Pneumovax 23 and Prevnar 13 are 2 vaccines that help to prevent these serious diseases and the complications they can cause.  They don't protect against viruses, and as yet cannot prevent infections from all pneumonia causing bacteria.  However, they protect against the most common and most threatening bacteria.

The main difference between Pneumovax 23 and Prevnar 13 is how many different types of bacteria they target.  Pneumovax 23 protects against 23 types of pneumococcal  bacteria, while Prevnar 13 protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria.

In most cases, the CDC recommends that you get both vaccines at some point in your life.

Don't ignore the dangers associated with pneumonia.  Talk to your health care provider about pneumonia protection.

​Be Well!




Request to Faith Community Nurse

If you have a request for our Faith Community Nurse, please send an email to or you may call our office at 717-792-9260.  Thank you

  • Twitter Classic
  • c-facebook