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.
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.
Here are some basic steps to help you avoid infection and keep your lungs healthy:
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.
Ascorbic acid. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 6, 2013. Accessed April 2, 2013.
Bhandari N, Bahl R, Taneja S, et al. Effect of routine zinc supplementation on pneumonia in children aged 6 months to 3 years: randomised controlled trial in an urban slum. BMJ. 2002;324(7350):1358.
Bhutta ZA, Black RE, Brown KH, et al. Prevention of diarrhea and pneumonia by zinc supplementation in children in developing countries: pooled analysis of randomized controlled trials. Zinc Investigators' Collaborative Group. J Pediatr. 1999;135(6):689-697.
Brooks WA, Santosham M, Naheed A, et al. Effect of weekly zinc supplements on incidence of pneumonia and diarrhoea in children younger than 2 years in an urban, low-income population in Bangladesh: randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2005;366(9490):999-1004.
Community-acquired pneumonia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 25, 2013. Accessed April 3, 2013.
How can pneumonia be prevented? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pnu/prevention. Updated March 1, 2011. Accessed April 2, 2013.
Jackson LA, Neuzil KM, Yu O, et al. Effectiveness of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine in older adults. N Engl J Med. 2003;348(18):1747-1755.
Preventing pneumonia. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/pneumonia/prevent-pneumonia.html. Accessed April 2, 2013.
Zinc. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional. Updated September 20, 2011. Accessed April 2, 2013.
10/30/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Hemila H, Louhiala P. Vitamin C for preventing and treating pneumonia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(3):CD005532.
2/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Lassi Z, Haider B, Bhutta ZA. Zinc supplementation for the prevention of pneumonia in children aged 2 months to 59 months. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(12):CD005978.
10/21/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Hemilä H, Louhiala P. Vitamin C for preventing and treating pneumonia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(8):CD005532.
Last reviewed June 2016 by David L. Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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