Preventing pneumonia

There are some very simple things you can do to avoid catching a respiratory tract infection (RTI) or spreading the infection to others if you do have one. These actions may sound simple, but research shows they are highly effective for reducing the spread of infections — even serious ones.

Stay at home if you are unwell

If you have a cold, flu (influenza), pneumonia or any respiratory tract infection (RTI) — see your doctor if necessary and stay at home until you feel better. This helps you to get over the infection faster, and will also mean that you won’t come into contact with others and spread your infection.

Simple ways to stop the spread of infection

Help to prevent the spread of infectious diseases by:

  • regularly washing your hands with soap and running water, particularly before preparing and eating food and after coughing or blowing your nose
  • coughing and sneezing into a tissue then throwing it away
  • covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing
  • keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth
  • avoiding sharing cups, glasses and cutlery when eating or drinking
  • keeping your household surfaces clean.

Vaccination

There are vaccines available in Australia — the pneumococcal vaccines — that can help protect children and adults against the bacteria that cause pneumonia, meningitis and many other serious illnesses (Streptococcus pneumoniae).

Being vaccinated not only protects you from infection (i.e. makes you immune to the disease), but also protects the community as a whole, by reducing the number of people who can catch the infections and pass them on to others. This is called ‘herd immunity’.

The pneumococcal vaccines are given free of charge as part of the National Immunisation Program schedule to all babies, adults aged 65 years and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged between 15 and 49 years who are medically at risk of infection and the complications of pneumococcal infections, and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are 50 years and older.

Adults who are at increased risk of medical complications if they become infected with Streptococcus pneumoniae can be vaccinated with a pneumococcal vaccine (Pneumovax 23) at a reduced price on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Who is the pneumococcal vaccine recommended for?

Vaccination with a pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for adults and children for whom catching pneumonia would be very serious and even life threatening, including:

  • all adults who are 65 years or older
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged between 15 and 49 years, who are medically at risk of infection and the complications of pneumococcal infections
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are 50 years and older
  • people with kidney failure
  • people who have had an organ transplant
  • people who have had their spleen removed, or who have a spleen that doesn’t function properly
  • people who are HIV positive
  • people with certain cancers that affect the immune system (including myeloma, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease)
  • people with long-term illnesses including type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, alcohol dependence, heart, kidney or lung disease
  • people who smoke.

Read more about the pneumococcal vaccines, their side effects and who should be vaccinated, with which vaccine and when.

Read about what to do if your child has a fever after a vaccination.

References