The pneumococcal vaccination is suitable for those over 65 years of age or immune compromised members a pneumococcal vaccination once every five years. Picture: AP
The pneumococcal vaccination is suitable for those over 65 years of age or immune compromised members a pneumococcal vaccination once every five years. Picture: AP

How to tell the difference between pneumonia and flu

By Lifestyle reporter Time of article published Apr 11, 2020

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a child dies from pneumonia every 30 seconds. Which means that around 1.1 million children, under the age of five, die each year. This is more than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined.

We spoke to Bonitas Medical Fund to help us understand what pneumonia is :

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung inflammation caused by a bacterial or viral infection, it’s when the air sacs in the lung fill up with pus and can affect or one or both lungs.

The flu shot and pneumonia 

Having a flu vaccine is the first line of defence when it comes to protecting yourself, with studies showing it reduces the risk by about 50 to 60 percent. The vaccine trains your body to recognise flu and fight it.

Pneumonia is a relatively common and serious complication of flu.Supporting evidence from randomised clinical trials indicates that flu vaccines are effective in preventing influenza-associated pneumonia.

Signs and symptoms of pneumonia may include:
  • Chest pain when you breathe or cough
  • Confusion or changes in mental awareness (in adults aged 65 and older)
  • A cough, which may produce phlegm
  • Fatigue
  • Fever, sweating and shaking chills
  • Lower than normal body temperature (in adults older than age 65 and people with weak immune systems)
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Shortness of breath
 
How are flu and pneumonia different?

Bonitas explains that pneumonia symptoms are similar to flu but last longer. The severity of the pneumonia depends on your age and overall health.  In the case of newborns and infants, sometimes they show little or no infection and other times they may vomit, have a fever and cough, have difficulty breathing and eating. 

Is it an annual vaccination?

The pneumococcal vaccination is suitable for those over 65 years of age or immune compromised members a pneumococcal vaccination once every five years. 

Who should have the pneumonia vaccination?

It is recommended for all individuals aged 65 years or older plus individuals aged 2-64 years with certain long-term health conditions, such as a serious heart or kidney condition. 

In fact for anyone with an  increased risk, from a  chronic disease, immune-suppressed people particularly those who are HIV positive, cancer sufferers and smokers who are more prone to respiratory illnesses.  

When to see a doctor?

See your doctor if you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, persistent fever of (39C) or higher or a persistent cough, especially if you're coughing up phlegm. 




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