6 Effective Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Pneumonia

Find Out How You Can Reduce Your Risk Of Pneumonia Effectively

Pneumonia remains one of the leading causes of death in Malaysia, according to reports published as recently as 2020.1

But what exactly is pneumonia, how does it affect us, and how can we prevent it from doing so?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that causes the alveoli, the air sacs in the lungs, to become inflamed and fill up with fluid. It can be caused by several factors, but the main culprits are certain strands of bacteria, viruses, or fungi.2

The most common bacterial pneumonia is pneumococcal pneumonia, caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae germ that normally lives in our upper respiratory tract.3 This type of pneumonia is particularly dangerous, with the potential to seriously disrupt a person's health and life for weeks. In some severe cases, it can even lead to hospitalisation.4

The bacteria that cause pneumococcal pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumoniae, can also cause other infections that affects other organs, such as ears, sinuses, and even the bloodstream. These infections are also known as pneumococcal diseases.5

Photo credit: Gustavo Fring

What are some types of pneumococcal diseases?

Pneumococcal diseases can be divided into two categories: non-invasive pneumococcal diseases and invasive pneumococcal diseases.6

Non-invasive pneumococcal diseases occur outside major organs or the blood6, and can cause infections such as:

  • Otitis media, which results in the inflammation of the middle ear.
  • Acute bronchitis, an inflammation of the airways.
  • Sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinuses in a person’s skull.

Invasive pneumococcal diseases are more serious than non-invasive pneumococcal diseases. They occur inside a major organ or in a person’s blood. Examples of invasive pneumococcal diseases6 include:

  • Bacteremia, or a bacterial infection of the blood.
  • Sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection response by the body.
  • Meningitis, which is an inflammation of the meninges – the three membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.
  • Infections such as osteomyelitis – an infection that affects bones – and septic arthritis, an infection in your joints.
  • Pneumonia, a serious lung disease which may require hospitalisation.4

Should you be experiencing any of these symptoms above for a prolonged period of time, speak to a medical professional as soon as possible, as a delayed diagnosis or treatment could lead to further severity regarding the disease.

Who are at risk of getting pneumococcal disease?

Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but some groups of people are particularly vulnerable.7

Individuals above the age of 65 years are at greater risk for pneumococcal disease. However, certain medical conditions or lifestyle choices can increase the risk of pneumoniafor a person below the age of 65. These include:

  • A weakened immune system from various illnesses, including but not limited to sickle cell disease, HIV, cancer.
  • Pancreatic diseases such as diabetes.
  • Chronic heart, lung, kidney, or liver disease.
  • Frequent alcoholic consumption and/or frequent smoking.

Photo credit: RODNAE Productions

What are some ways to prevent pneumonia?

Knowing the proper precautions and having an awareness to the dangers of pneumonia, it is more than possible to take steps that ensure you or your loved ones would be protected from the viral disease.8

1. Wash your hands frequently

Wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing or blowing your nose, going to the bathroom, before and after meals, or while preparing food.9 Washing your hands ensures you can avoid transferring germs that may cause pneumonia or other similarly dangerous diseases from entering into your system.8

2. Avoid smoking

Damaged lung tissue, usually caused by smoking, has a higher risk of bacterial infection.10

This is due to the tobacco consumed harming the lung's ability to fight off infections. Because of this, smokers have been found to have a higher risk of respiratory diseases, including pneumonia.9

3. Maintain good and healthy habits

Good health habits such as a healthy diet, proper rest, and regular exercise goes a long way in not only preventing pneumonia but a slew of health problems. A healthy lifestyle will help you prevent sickness from viruses and respiratory illnesses.9

4. Keep an eye on your general health

Be sure to manage existing health conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease well. Since pneumonia often follows respiratory infections, you should also be aware of any possible symptoms that linger for more than a few days.9 

5. Address environmental factors

Regularly breathing in dust, chemicals, air pollution, toxic fumes, or any other harmful pollutants can damage your lungs, which in turn will make them more vulnerable to infection.11 One of the ways to mitigate potential negative effects of pollution are air purifiers, which cleans the air you breathe by filtering out fine particles12.

6. Get the pneumococcal vaccine to protect against pneumonia

Pneumococcal vaccines reduce your risk of getting pneumonia by protecting you against certain kinds of bacteria8. People from high-risk groups, such as the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, are strongly suggested to get these vaccinations, as they are more vulnerable to developing pneumonia.8

To learn more about the right immunisation options for you or your loved ones, reach out and speak to a healthcare professional today.


  1. Statistics on Causes of Death, Malaysia, 2021 | https://tinyurl.com/2p8j3p46 | Accessed on 28 Feb 2022
  2. Learn About Pneumonia | https://tinyurl.com/ujbzd8uy | Accessed on 28 Feb 2022
  3. What Causes Pneumonia? | https://tinyurl.com/2p9ye4vb | Accessed on 28 Feb 2022
  4. Pneumococcal Pneumonia | https://tinyurl.com/4uk2ur8s | Accessed on 28 Feb 2022
  5. Pneumococcal Disease | https://tinyurl.com/ycyknw9t | Accessed on 28 Feb 2022
  6. Pneumococcal disease: Causes, how it spreads, and symptoms | https://tinyurl.com/2p8v5vwp | Accessed on 28 Feb 2022
  7. Pneumococcal Disease: Risk Factors and Transmission | https://tinyurl.com/yc7sjnfk | Accessed on 28 Feb 2022
  8. How to Prevent Pneumonia | https://tinyurl.com/2p8fu23d | Accessed on 28 Feb 2022
  9. Preventing Pneumonia | https://tinyurl.com/2p8er75t | Accessed on 28 Feb 2022
  10. Am I At Risk? | https://tinyurl.com/26u45cks | Accessed on 28 Feb 2022
  11. Pneumonia - Walking Pneumonia - Treatment | https://tinyurl.com/ypnrw3yf | Accessed on 28 Feb 2022
  12. Can Air Purifiers Improve Your Lung and Heart Health? | https://tinyurl.com/2p8z87p6 | Accessed on 28 Feb 2022


The health information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patient.

For Pfizer terms of use click here: Terms of Use | Pfizer – Breakthroughs That Change Patients’ Lives


*The free doctor consult initiative is supported and fully funded by DoctorOnCall