Pneumonia is a lung inflammation that can be caused by a bacterial, viral or fungal infection. Even when these organisms get into your system, the body can usually prevent them from infecting your lungs and respiratory system, but there are times when your immune system cannot overpower them, and that is when pneumonia can take hold. Pneumonia can be very debilitating, requiring medication, bed rest or even hospitalization; or it can be a less serious type of the disease sometimes called “walking pneumonia,” which allows you to function almost normally while you recover.
People are susceptible to developing pneumonia no matter what their age or health status is, but the two most common groups who are at risk of developing the disease are children under two years old and people who are over 65 years old. These two groups are most likely to get pneumonia because young children’s immune systems are not completely developed, and many older people have weakened immune systems or suffer from other illnesses that can weaken it.
There are many possible causes of a weakened immune system. If you already have an autoimmune disease such as AIDS, or if you have been exposed to chemicals at your place of work, you are at risk. Lung diseases such as COPD or asthma can weaken the body’s defenses against pneumonia, as can deprivation of nutrients. Nutrient deficiency is not just about food – if you do not give the body enough water, minerals, protein or vitamins, you will be nutrient deficient and more at risk for not just pneumonia, but other diseases too. If you are hospitalized – especially if you are in intensive care and/or on a ventilator – your risk of developing pneumonia is higher.
Diseases such as fibromyalgia, Chrohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or multiple sclerosis can also contribute to low resistance and a weakened immune system that can lead to developing pneumonia. Unfortunately, both cancer and one of its traditional treatments – chemotherapy – weaken the autoimmune system. Even external situations like lack of sleep or emotional stress can also depress the system. A weak immune system may also be the result of an organ transplant or long term use of steroids.
Inactivity and sedation that keeps you from moving around much impacts on the immune system, as does difficulty swallowing. Alcohol abuse and smoking are immune weakening. Your risk increases even if you have recently had the flu or a cold.