We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.
Pneumonia is a severe respiratory infection that accounts for the hospitalization of around 1 million adults and 50,000 deaths every year in the United States alone1. During hospitalization, nursing professionals help you breathe easier. They also provide you with medication to aid your body in fighting off pneumonia-causing pathogens.
Additionally, they ensure you consume enough fluids and nutrients. But what happens, though, when you arrive home? How does, or should, having pneumonia affect your lifestyle? This article examines possible lifestyle adjustments for pneumonia patients.
The British Lung Foundation recommends eating a healthy, balanced, and diverse diet to boost your recovery from pneumonia and maintain the health of your lungs2. A 2015 review article in the journal Nutrients suggests3 that your diet greatly impacts how your lung illness develops, progresses, and is managed.
Certain meals can cause symptom flare-ups in people with pneumonia; therefore, you may want to avoid these foods if you have pneumonia:
A 2013 analysis suggests that there is insufficient evidence to support the preventive use of vitamin C11 to prevent pneumonia in the general population. However, due to its low cost and risk, therapeutic vitamin C supplementation may be appropriate for helping to treat pneumonia patients with low vitamin C plasma levels. Moreover, studies illustrate that smokers may benefit from higher vitamin C doses and that smokers who consume more vitamin C have better lung function than those who consume less vitamin C12.
Good hygiene practices help in infection control13. This involves actions taken to stop the transmission of any infection, including pneumonia, such as:
Drinking plenty of water is crucial for good health and overall body function in general15. It can also aid in removing mucus from the respiratory tract, thereby working as nature’s decongestant. Fluid intake for pneumonia patients must be adequate because a lack of it could lead to dehydration. Broth, soups, and herbal tea (without caffeine) can warm the lungs while also removing more phlegm16.
Studies17 suggest that physical activity reduces the risk of pneumonia. Yoga in particular, with its mixture of deep breathing18 and movements, is effective at improving lung function19. Furthermore, pneumonia can bring on stress and anxiety, which can worsen symptoms and slow down recovery, and exercise is a good and healthy way to cope with stress.
To help fight the infection and reduce inflammation, pneumonia is frequently treated with antibiotics, antiviral and antifungal medications. Pneumonia patients must adhere to their treatment regimen and take their drugs as prescribed, otherwise, pneumonia may not be fully eradicated and could come back or have other adverse effects.
For the management of pneumonia, routine examinations and doctor visits are also crucial to receive the proper medical attention and medication. Never use medication without consulting a physician.
Bacterial pneumonia is a prevalent and dangerous illness that affects heavy drinkers at a higher rate than non- or low-level drinkers22. An analysis of many articles found that heavy drinkers are around twice as likely to catch pneumonia than non- or low-level drinkers, with an 8% increase for every 20g of alcohol drunk a day23.
Smoke can cause complications such as coughing and difficulty breathing, making pneumonia worse and causing healing to take longer. Smokers should aim to stop or at the least minimize their smoking while they are getting better from pneumonia.
Additionally, stay away from places with open fireplaces and other potentially polluted air sources.
Getting lots of fresh air might help with recuperation and lung health. Poor indoor air quality 25 is a well-known risk factor for lung diseases, especially when it comes to biomass fuels. This risk factor may be modified by using cleaner fuels, better cooking stoves or heaters, and better ventilation.
WHO estimates that around 7 million people each year pass away from exposure to fine particles26, with air pollution being responsible for 29% of lung cancer fatalities and 43% of deaths from obstructive lung disorders.
Fortunately, the easiest way to receive fresh air is to open windows or spend time outside (if appropriate).
Appropriate humidifier use is recommended as a form of treatment for pneumonia, but you shouldn't rely solely on the humidifier27. Remember to ask your doctor or physician to include a humidifier for daily use.
Rest is essential for the body's cellular repair, but it may be particularly helpful for shortness of breath. Humidifiers boost indoor air quality and can greatly reduce symptoms, like coughing, while opening nasal passages to reduce irritation and facilitate easier breathing, which aid in improving sleep in terms of how long it takes to get to sleep and how good the sleep is28.
Additionally, pneumonia can cause weakness and fatigue. So, until you are feeling better, avoid physically demanding activities. This may include activities like heavy lifting or vigorous exercise. Mayo Clinic advises that you wait until your temperature is normal and you no longer cough up mucus before returning to class or your job29.
You should be careful not to overdo it, even if you start to feel better. It's best to wait until you fully recover before returning to your routine because pneumonia can recur. If you're unsure, consult your doctor.
Related: Should You Exercise with a Cough?
Vaccines can aid in preventing some forms of pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses.
The American Lung Association recommends that the following groups of people should be vaccinated30:
The CDC has approved two types of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for younger children, older adults, and certain other people who have other conditions or other risk factors31.:
PCV13 or PCV15 is recommended for should be administered to all children under the age of five, as well as and children between the ages of five and 18 and adults with certain medical conditions that increase their risk of pneumococcal disease. Whereas PCV15 followed by a dose of PPSV23 should be given to adults at 65 years old and over or are 19 through 64 years old and have certain medical conditions or other risk factors.
Not only does vaccination lower the risk of pneumonia, but also reduces hospital admissions for pneumonia in adults. For example, evidence indicates that medicare beneficiaries 65 years of age and older who used PCV13 had fewer pneumonia hospitalizations32.
Pneumonia can be more severe in people with certain underlying health conditions, such as diabetes33. asthma34, or COPD35, among others. Statistics indicate that adults 65 and older with COPD have 7.7 the risk for contracting pneumococcal pneumonia than their healthy counterparts, and those with asthma are at 5.9 times greater risk36.
Therefore, patients should work with their healthcare provider to manage these conditions and take steps to keep them under control.
Many patients who have chronic pulmonary issues also struggle with their mental health. You might have anxiety, a bad mood, or depressive symptoms. It's fairly typical to suffer both despair and anxiety at the same time.
For instance, a recent population-based study37 found a link between depression and later pneumonia hospitalization. So, it's important for patients to seek support to help them manage their condition and recover more quickly because coping with pneumonia can be challenging, both physically and emotionally.
One can seek support from:
If you note significant and persistent distress, consult with a therapist or psychologist.
You can also practice relaxation techniques to help manage stress yourself. Some helpful relaxation techniques include:
Lifestyle factors like smoking, heavy drinking, poor dental hygiene or simply being a present or former smoker or heavy drinker carries a significantly elevated risk of pneumonia in all adult age groups. However, identifying and controlling the risk factors of pneumonia could be the way to prevent the disease and reduce complications.
Marion is a freelance health and wellness writer with a passion for all things digital health. She loves diving deep into the latest research and trends in the industry and distilling them down into fun, relatable pieces that people can relate to. Whether you're a health nut or a tech geek, she is always looking for new and interesting ways to help readers access quality and evidence-based information.