Pneumonia, or inflammation of the lungs caused by an infection, is a common flu complication that can result in hospitalization and even death. Consumer Reports has published timely information from the Center for Disease Control. This information is particularly relevant for the elderly during this and future flu seasons.
Flu can cause pneumonia in two ways. First, the influenza virus itself can infect the lungs, causing what’s called viral pneumonia. Second, flu weakens the immune system and damages the lining of the respiratory tract, which can make it easier for certain bacteria to infect the lungs and cause bacterial pneumonia.
Get a Flu Shot
The best way to protect against flu-related pneumonia is to avoid the flu itself. The CDC is still recommending people get a flu shot if they haven’t already, “even this late in the season,” Schuchat says.
Although the vaccine doesn’t perfectly protect against flu, it does reduce your chances of catching the illness.
Also, evidence suggests that even if you get the flu, the shot may lessen the severity of the illness. That, in turn, means you have a smaller chance of developing a secondary bacterial infection, says Todd Rice, M.D., medical director of the medical ICU at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.