For many years doctors had a nickname for pneumonia. They called it the “Old Man’s Friend.”1
Before antibiotics, pneumonia had a reputation for carrying the old and infirm to a swift and relatively painless death.
Merle Haggard was not so lucky.
He battled the disease for months. The country star had pneumonia in both lungs. He died Wednesday. It was his 79th birthday.
Simply put, pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. They fill with fluid and make breathing difficult. Death from pneumonia is actually similar to drowning.
Antibiotics are the first-line treatment for pneumonia.2 But they often don’t work.
Antibiotics are effective only if the lung infection is caused by bacteria. Even then, they won’t be work if it is an antibiotic-resistant strain. And they won’t work if the cause is a virus or fungi. Pneumonia can be caused by many different microbes. No single one is responsible for even 10% of cases. That makes treatment dicey.
And the pneumonia vaccine? It is not very effective, either. In the U.S., where big pharmaceutical companies carry major clout, it is still pushed on seniors.
But a comprehensive review in 2009 found the pneumonia shot did not cut the risk of the disease in seniors. There was no evidence that it did anything at all to prevent pneumonia.3
Afterward, countries such as the UK stopped recommending it.
So what’s your best bet for avoiding the “old man’s friend”?
Not smoking is number one. Smoking makes it more difficult for the lungs to filter out pathogens. And it weakens your immune system. Merle Haggard smoked Camel cigarettes for 50 years.4
Don’t take chances with chest congestion. Early treatment can be a lifesaver. If you get a cold or the flu and begin wheezing, see your doctor right away.5
Wash your hands religiously during flu season. Yes, you’ve heard this advice before. But the influenza virus often brings on pneumonia. As many as 80% of flu infections are transmitted by touching surfaces that have been sneezed or coughed on. Don’t use antibacterial soap, which has harmful ingredients. Plain soap works just as well.
Get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Studies show that skimping on sleep impairs the immune system.6
Drink plenty of liquids. This keeps mucus membranes moist, which allows your body to more effectively filter out pathogens.
Here’s what else you should know about stopping pneumonia…
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In Good Health,
Publisher, INH Health Watch