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Portsmouth Regional Hospital

Reducing Your Risk of Pneumonia

Quit Smoking

Smoking irritates your lungs and interferes with the normal defenses that protect you against infection. If you quit smoking, your lungs will gradually heal themselves. Your doctor can recommend programs or nicotine replacement systems that can help you successfully quit.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamin C should be part of your daily diet. It is found in fruit (strawberries, papaya, and kiwi) and vegetables (peppers, broccoli, and peas). Women should get 75 mg of vitamin C per day, and men should get 90 mg. If you do not consume enough vitamin C in your diet, you may want to talk to your doctor about taking a supplement. Research studies suggest that vitamin C may prevent and treat pneumonia.

Zinc is an essential mineral that is found in almost every cell of the body. It is necessary for proper growth and immune function. If someone is deficient in this mineral, taking a daily zinc supplement may help to reduce the risk of developing pneumonia. Researchers have found that this is especially true for children who live in developing countries. If you want to take zinc or give it to your child, talk to the doctor first to find out if this is a good choice.

Use Precautions to Avoid Infections

Here are some basic steps to help you avoid infection and keep your lungs healthy:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid being near people who are ill.
  • Avoid exposure to toxic or damaging fumes. Exposure to gases, chemicals, air pollution, and secondhand smoke can irritate your lungs and make them more vulnerable to infection.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Maintaining good nutrition helps keep your immune system strong.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise can help keep your immune system functioning optimally.
  • Do not use (IV) drugs. Using illegal drugs can increase your risk of getting pneumonia, as well as other infectious diseases.

Get Vaccinated

Vaccines can be particularly helpful at protecting you against developing pneumonia:

Influenza vaccine is given every fall. It protects you against the types of influenza that are predicted to be in your community that coming winter. You should get the flu shot yearly because having influenza puts you at a high risk of developing pneumonia.

Children should receive a series of pneumonia vaccines to prevent specific bacterial infections that cause pneumonia. A different pneumococcal vaccine should be given to adults 65 years and older and to people at risk of pneumonia.

Haemophilus vaccine is given to protect against a specific bacteria that can cause pneumonia or meningitis. This vaccine is given to children in the United States who are younger than 5 years old. It is often given to infants starting at 2 months of age.

Revision Information

  • Ascorbic acid. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated March 6, 2013. Accessed April 2, 2013.

  • Bhandari N, Bahl R, Taneja S, et al. Effect of routine zinc supplementation on pneumonia in children aged 6 months to 3 years: randomised controlled trial in an urban slum. BMJ. 2002;324(7350):1358.

  • Bhutta ZA, Black RE, Brown KH, et al. Prevention of diarrhea and pneumonia by zinc supplementation in children in developing countries: pooled analysis of randomized controlled trials. Zinc Investigators' Collaborative Group. J Pediatr. 1999;135(6):689-697.

  • Brooks WA, Santosham M, Naheed A, et al. Effect of weekly zinc supplements on incidence of pneumonia and diarrhoea in children younger than 2 years in an urban, low-income population in Bangladesh: randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2005;366(9490):999-1004.

  • Community-acquired pneumonia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated March 25, 2013. Accessed April 3, 2013.

  • How can pneumonia be prevented? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Updated March 1, 2011. Accessed April 2, 2013.

  • Jackson LA, Neuzil KM, Yu O, et al. Effectiveness of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine in older adults. N Engl J Med. 2003;348(18):1747-1755.

  • Preventing pneumonia. American Lung Association website. Available at: Accessed April 2, 2013.

  • Zinc. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: Updated September 20, 2011. Accessed April 2, 2013.

  • 10/30/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance Hemila H, Louhiala P. Vitamin C for preventing and treating pneumonia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(3):CD005532.

  • 2/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Lassi Z, Haider B, Bhutta ZA. Zinc supplementation for the prevention of pneumonia in children aged 2 months to 59 months. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(12):CD005978.

  • 10/21/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Hemilä H, Louhiala P. Vitamin C for preventing and treating pneumonia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(8):CD005532.