Pneumonia – Safety and Prevention

Submitterd by: Dr Rebecca Wise

Do you know what cost the United States economy more than 40.2 billion dollars in 2005? No, it’s not the amount of money spent on shoes purchased in your local mall last year, it was actually pneumonia. Pneumonia is currently ranked the 8th leading cause of death in the United States with many infections occurring in children and patients over 65 years old. Pneumonia can plague many people but it will not discriminate by gender and occurs equally in males and females.
The most common cause of pneumonia is a result of the organism Streptococcus Pneumoniae. This bug makes its’ presence known most often in the winter and early spring when other respiratory diseases are being spread. When this organism attacks, you can experience symptoms such as shaking/chills, chattering teeth, severe chest pains, sweats, cough that produces rust colored or greenish mucus, increased breathing and pulse rate, and bluish colored lips or nails due to lack of oxygen. You will typically hear about this disease occurring in the elderly population but it can attack younger children as well in the form of meningitis. In fact, Streptococcus Pneumoniae is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children younger than 5 years old.

These bacteria like to live within the lungs and are expelled when you cough or sneeze. People who live within the same household as a person who is infected with this bacteria will have significant exposure to these droplets. Thus you can infect many other people as a result of living in close proximity to your loved ones.

So you may be asking yourself, how can I prevent this horrible disease? Well the answer lies in your healthcare professionals’ hands. There are two forms of the pneumonia vaccine that can be used based on your age and doctor’s approval. These vaccines are recommended for patients who have asthma, long-term health problems (such as Diabetes, HIV, sickle cell anemia), lowered infection resistance (such as current chemotherapy or radiation, chronic use of steroids), are a candidate for or recipient of a cochlear implant, or are a smoker. This vaccine is very effective in the prevention of invasive pneumonia that can lead to hospitalization of patients.

Recent changes in medicine are now requiring patients to have both of these vaccines but talk to your doctor to see if he/she recommends both vaccines at this time. The pneumonia vaccine is typically covered by most private insurances and is also covered by Medicare Part B if you have met the above risk factors for the pneumonia disease. All you need to do is talk with your doctor or pharmacist the next time you have an appointment to see if they recommend a pneumonia vaccine for you.

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Written by Scott Bragg, PharmD Candidate, LECOM Class of 2015
Student of Dr. Rebecca Miller Wise,

Be Well, Be Wise,


Dr. Rebecca Wise

Wise Words…. is a general medical information column from Dr Rebecca Wise. Dr. Wise has a master’s degree in education as well as her doctorate in pharmacy. She is an assistant professor and ambulatory care specialist at a Medication Therapy Management (MTM) clinic in Erie, PA.

Soon to be released is Dr Becky’s new website which will address women’s issues, watch for it:

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