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 healthful 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.
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.
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Prevention. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pnu/prevention. Accessed November 10, 2019.
Zinc. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional. Updated February 11, 2016. Accessed November 10, 2019.
Last reviewed January 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP Last Updated:1/21/2020