Don’t delay, act

Pneumonia is not a cold or flu. Pneumonia can affect anyone. There are over 77,500 pneumonia hospitalisations in Australia each year, and the average stay rises with age – from 6 days for those under 65 to 13 days for those 65+. Adults aged 65 and over, no matter how healthy they feel, are at increased risk simply due to their age.

What is it?

Pneumonia is a common and potentially fatal lung infection that should not be underestimated. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. During normal respiration, air travels through the lungs to the alveoli or air sacs. Pneumonia results when air sacs in the lungs fill with secretions and fluids that obstruct normal air flow. There are many types of pneumonia, one of the most common and life-threatening types is pneumococcal pneumonia.

One of the most common types of bacterial pneumonia is pneumococcal pneumonia, caused by infection with streptococcus pneumoniae. There are vaccines against this strain that reduce the risk of infection.

Pneumonia is not a cold or flu

The symptoms of pneumonia depend on the age of the person, the cause and severity of the infection, and any existing problems with immunity.

Symptoms should not be ignored as they can lead to hospitalisation and be life-threatening:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain.

It is important to be aware that if you have pneumonia you may not show all signs and symptoms. Pneumonia is easily spread through coughing and sneezing. The infection can come on rapidly and develop in just 1 – 3 days.

Who is at risk?

Anyone of any age can contract pneumonia, but those at a higher risk are:

  • People 65+ years young
  • People with medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer or a chronic disease affecting the lungs, heart , kidney or liver
  • Tobacco smokers
  • Indigenous Australians
  • Infants aged 12 months or under.

It’s important to remember no matter how healthy and active you are, your risk for getting pneumococcal pneumonia increases with age. This is because our immune system naturally weakens with age, making it harder for our bodies to fight off infections and diseases.

Don’t delay, act

Take steps to protect yourself against pneumonia

  • Practice good hand and home hygiene to minimise the spread of germs
  • Make your life a smoke-free zone by quitting smoking and/or reducing your exposure to second hand smoke.
  • Have the vaccination which is funded under the government’s National Immunisation Program (NIP) free for:
    • all Australians aged 65 years or older
    • Indigenous Australians aged 50 years or older, and
    • Indigenous Australians aged 15 to 49 years who are medically at risk.

A second dose of vaccine is also available to some Australians, a minimum of five years following their first dose. The vaccine is also subsidised on the PBS for those aged under 65 who are considered at increased risk for contracting pneumonia, for example if they are immune-compromised.

Speak to your doctor today about the pneumonia vaccination.

Influenza is a common preceding viral infection. Being vaccinated against influenza can also help prevent that infection and the pneumonia which may complicate it.