World Pneumonia Day 2022: Pneumonia Affects Everyone

Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your professional background and your current role at Asthma + Lung UK?

I have been a GP for 18 years and work with Asthma + Lung UK as a clinical manager. I support different parts of the charity making sure their work is medically accurate, including helping to create our health advice, liaising with expert nurses on the helpline or influencing the NHS and policy makers to improve care for patients with respiratory diseases.

Can you tell us a bit more about Asthma + Lung UK? What is your strategy for achieving a world where everyone has healthy lungs?

Asthma + Lung UK is the country’s leading lung charity. It is committed to providing better outcomes for the 12 million people who will develop lung disease in their lifetime, whether it’s asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis or any other respiratory disease.

Fighting for your right to breathe | Asthma + Lung UK

Currently, the UK has the highest lung death rate in Western Europe, with just 2% of publicly funded research devoted to respiratory health. Yet lung disease is the third leading cause of death in the country. As a charity, we believe this is not enough, and we are campaigning for more money to be invested in research to develop new medicines. We also want lung health to be a priority alongside other conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.

What is pneumonia and how do infectious lung conditions, such as pneumonia, affect existing lung conditions?

Pneumonia is a type of lung infection that affects the tiny air sacs in your lungs, called the alveoli. When you have pneumonia, these air sacs become inflamed and fill with fluid. It makes it harder for someone to breathe. Symptoms include coughing up mucus, high temperature, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and loss of appetite.

It’s a leading cause of death in winter, and people with existing lung conditions are at higher risk of serious illness.

Image Credit: Helena Nechaeva/Shutterstock.com

Image Credit: Helena Nechaeva/Shutterstock.com

Babies and young children are at a higher risk of contracting pneumonia because their immune system is not yet fully developed. What is the impact of pneumonia on the lives of children and their families? What needs to be done to improve the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric pneumonia?

Many cases of childhood pneumonia can be prevented. Reducing exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke (even on clothing), promoting routine childhood vaccinations, healthy eating, and regular physical activity are all key to protecting children’s lungs.

The specific theme for World Pneumonia Day 2022 is “Pneumonia affects everyone”. How important is it to improve the visibility of this disease and the people it affects?

It is believed that pneumonia only affects the elderly and more vulnerable, but this is not always the case, with Asthma + Lung UK research revealing that almost one in every hundred adults will be affected by the infection each year .

Pneumonia is dangerous and can be fatal, so it’s important to know how to prevent it. Some steps people can take to protect themselves include not smoking, practicing hand washing to prevent infection, and getting vaccinated against pneumonia if eligible.

The absorption of this jab is not as high as it should be. Those eligible for the free vaccine include adults over 65, those at occupational risk, such as metalworkers and welders, and children and adults with long-term health conditions such as COPD or severe asthma. Most adults will only need this vaccine once in their lifetime.

Image Credit: VectorMine/Shutterstock.com

Image Credit: VectorMine/Shutterstock.com

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia?

It’s been a bit mixed, really. On the one hand, people are more aware of respiratory problems and are more likely to take respiratory problems more seriously. Yet, on the other hand, for some there is increased resistance to seeking medical care, or they have difficulty accessing it.

What are the next steps for you and your work? Do you have any exciting upcoming projects?

Asthma + Lung UK is currently funding crucial research into the impact of female hormones on asthma, as we know that women are more likely to be hospitalized with asthma than men and are twice as likely to die of an asthma attack.

Where can readers find more information?

You can read more about pneumonia on our website here: http://asthmaandlung.org.uk/pneumonia

About Dr. Andy Whittamore

Andy is a GP in Portsmouth and the charity’s clinical manager. He has worked as a general practitioner for over 15 years and has a wealth of knowledge on the diagnosis and treatment of lung conditions, including asthma, in primary care. He has held various roles driving innovation and quality improvement, including working for the Primary Care Respiratory Society UK, in the Department of Health Respiratory Program and as Clinical Champion for FeNO testing at NHS England .

Andy has been interviewed for a range of national and regional media including the Telegraph, BBC and Sky, and written for publications such as GP Online, OnMedica and Patient.info and can provide expert clinical insight into all lung conditions as well as how digital innovations such as apps can help people manage their lung health.
Follow Andy on Twitter: @76white

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