People are being urged to be aware of the risk of pneumonia after experts warned of an expected spike in respiratory infections this autumn and winter.
Colds and chest problems are already beginning to rise – including reports of a ‘Supercold’ – after Covid lockdown restrictions and social distancing led to a huge decrease last year.
Well Pharmacy, the UK’s largest independent pharmacy chain, are urging pneumonia awareness after research* revealed that fewer than half said they thought they could spot the symptoms of this serious illness.
Ifti Khan, Pharmacy Superintendent at Well Pharmacy, said: “It’s important people know the signs to look out for as early diagnosis and treatment can often make a big difference.”
Pneumonia is inflammation of the tissue in one or both lungs. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection, but can also be caused by a virus, such as Covid and flu. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, fever, shivering or sweating, chest pain, fatigue and a dry or phlegm producing cough.
Ifti Khan added: “Many people do not know there are widely available and effective vaccines to protect against pneumonia. These are not available on the NHS to everyone but are well worth having done privately if people are concerned or feel they may be vulnerable. A single dose can give lifetime protection.
“Pneumonia can be a serious illness with long-term effects and can lead to other serious health conditions like sepsis.”
The research* by Well Pharmacy found that four in five people have no concerns about being over-inoculated, and that one in seven people said they had suffered pneumonia as a complication of Covid. Meanwhile, one in four men and one in three women felt their immune system had been weakened by coronavirus.
Pneumonia can affect people of any age, but it's more common, and can be more serious, even fatal, in the very young, the elderly or those with long term health conditions, such as diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, chronic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, or are severely immunocompromised.
Well Pharmacy has answered these common questions about pneumonia:
Am I eligible for the free pneumonia vaccination?
Find out if you’re eligible for a free pneumonia vaccination on the NHS website here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pneumococcal-vaccination/. Well Pharmacy does not currently provide free NHS pneumonia vaccinations in our community pharmacies, but you can speak to your GP about getting one if you’re eligible.
How do you catch it?
Pneumonia is normally caused by a bacterial infection. However, there are other types of pneumonia such as – viral pneumonia caused by a virus, such as Covid. Hospital-acquired pneumonia, which develops in hospital while being treated for another condition. Fungal pneumonia which is very rare and mostly affects those with a weakened immune system or aspiration pneumonia which is caused by breathing in vomit, smoke, or chemicals.
What’s the treatment?
Mild pneumonia can be treated at home with antibiotics, getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids. For those more vulnerable such as the young, elderly or those with a weakened immune system, pneumonia can be severe and may need to be treated in hospital.
Do you have to isolate like with Covid?
No. Most cases of pneumonia are bacterial and are not passed on from one person to another. It is important to remember the good habits picked up during the pandemic and to continue to wash hands regularly, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing with a tissue and throwing tissues away immediately.
How quickly does it come on?
Pneumonia can come on suddenly and can be quite tricky to diagnose as it has very similar characteristics to a common cold.
How long does it last?
People should respond well to treatment and recover quickly, however you may experience a cough and shortness of breath for between three to six months following having pneumonia.
How does the pneumonia vaccine work?
Getting the pneumonia vaccine is an effective way to protect yourself against pneumonia. It’s given as a single injection, usually into your upper arm. Both types of pneumonia vaccine help your body to produce antibodies to protect against the pneumococcal bacteria that causes pneumonia. This means you’re less likely to become seriously ill if you do come into contact with the bacteria.
Can you have the flu jab and the pneumonia jab at the same time?
Yes. It is safe to have the flu and pneumonia vaccination as part of the same appointment. Patients will be offered one vaccination in each arm. Having both vaccines will give patients the best protection from flu and pneumonia this winter.
If you get a jab, how long does it last?
Well Pharmacy offer two types of pneumonia vaccine.
· Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) – suitable for people aged two and over who are not at an increased risk of developing pneumonia. This is a one-off vaccine and will protect you for a lifetime.
· Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) - suitable for people aged 65 and over who are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia, who may be eligible for a free NHS pneumonia vaccination. This offers you protection for up to 5 years.
To find out more about Well Pharmacy’s pneumonia vaccination service, please visit: https://www.well.co.uk/vaccinations/pneumonia
About the research
An online survey was conducted by WALR among 2,037 adults aged 18+ in the UK. The research fieldwork took place between 17-18 August, 2021. WALR is a member organisation of the Market Research Society and abides by all codes of practise.