Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is one of the most common types of conditions primary care providers encounter in the United States. It is also the most common infectious cause of death. CAP accounts for nearly 4.5 million doctor visits annually and is the second most common cause of hospitalizations.

Risk factors for contracting CAP include:

• Older age: risk increases as you grow older, especially for those 65 years and older
• Chronic respiratory disease: higher risk patients include those who smoke or have smoked, have COPD, bronchiectasis, asthma or other illnesses
• Chronic diseases such as diabetes, congestive heart failure or stroke
• Other immuno-compromising conditions, such as asplenia and HIV

How can you protect yourself from community acquired pneumonia?

Get vaccinated! The pneumococcal vaccination can help prevent this illness. The vaccine should be routine for those 65 and older. Generally, the vaccine is not recommended for healthy adults younger than 65—unless they are immuno-compromised. Check with your primary care provider to ensure your vaccination is up to date.

What types of vaccine do you need?

The following information will help you prepare to speak with your doctor. Pneumovax PPSV23 vaccine is recommended for adults 65 and older. It is typically administered every 10 years for patients who do not have any significant immuno-compromising conditions. The Pneumovax vaccine generally protects you against more than 50 percent of the causes of pneumococcal disease. Streptococcus pneumoniae, the leading bacterial cause of pneumonia worldwide, is part of Pneumovax PPSV23’s immunity.

The Prevnar PCV13 vaccine contains protection from 13 other types of pneumonia-causing bacteria. Currently, medical guidelines have been updated to include this additional vaccine for those 65 and over on a case-by-case basis only, because the incidence of pneumonia caused by these bacteria is actually very low.

Consult your doctor about these vaccines.

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The medical information in this article does not replace advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.