I had the pneumonia shot, so this can’t be pneumonia—right?
Unfortunately I hear this frequently from patients that have had the immunization against it, but currently have pneumonia—it isn’t true.
The next question to follow is, “So, if it isn’t true, is there any reason to get the shot?” Yes, it is important to have the pneumonia shot. I’ll explain.
Because there are different kinds of pneumonia, I will break them down into three main categories. This is oversimplifying a complicated situation, but it helps to understand.
There are more types of pneumonia than this, but these are the ones we encounter most:
- CAP—Community Acquired Pneumonia
- This is self descriptive—pneumonia acquired in the community in general, as opposed to a hospital or long term care facility
- CAP is usually caused by a bacterium, but can also be due to a viral infection
- Although all forms of pneumonia are potentially dangerous, this type of pneumonia is usually treated easily, and recovery is often without complication. It becomes more dangerous and difficult to treat as age increases
- This it the most dangerous form of CAP, and is the one covered by the pneumonia vaccine
- This bacterial pneumonia has become increasingly resistant to antibiotics. It is aggressive, and should be taken seriously. It can in fact be life-threatening in many people
- HAP—Hospital Acquired Pneumonia
- This pneumonia is particularly dangerous because it has developed and thrived in a hospital setting, causing it to be resistant to many antibiotics
- This is also of concern since many patients who get this form of pneumonia are already ill, and have compromised immune systems, allowing this disease to overcome their ability to fight it successfully
- Atypical Pneumonia
- Most call this Walking Pneumonia, and it is caused most often by a bacterium known as Mycoplasma
- Walking pneumonia is actually any form of pneumonia that is mild. It does not have to be this specific agent, but this is the most common form
The reason therefore, for receiving the pneumonia vaccine is because it is a life-threatening illness that attacks the weak and compromised. It can’t prevent every kind of pneumonia, but it prevents one of the worst and most dangerous.
Not everyone needs the pneumonia vaccine, but you do if you:
- Are over 65 years old
- Have a suppressed immune system
- Have heart or lung disease and are over 18 years old
- Are an alcoholic
- Have kidney failure
- Are positive for HIV
- Are Diabetic—even if treated by diet alone
It is important to note again here that any pneumonia, regardless of the cause, is serious.
Upper respiratory infections, cough with or without fever, and relatively minor coughs persisting for several days should be evaluated by a physician.
Most of the patients I treat for pneumonia have no idea they have anything more than a bad cold.
Feel free to ask any questions about pneumonia below.