Pneumonia is a relatively common yet serious infection that affects a person’s lungs. As a result, coughing, fever, and difficulty breathing are the most common symptoms associated with pneumonia.
This serious illness can be caused by a variety of viruses, bacteria, and fungi, but in America, it’s most commonly caused by respiratory syncytial virus, often just called RSV. Unlike pneumonia that’s contracted out in the public (known as “community-acquired pneumonia), hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) is an infection that occurs during a hospital stay.
Why is HAP so Dangerous?
This form of pneumonia is especially serious because it generally occurs when someone is too sick to fight off germs. Moreover, because it’s caused by bacteria or viruses present in a hospital, it’s often more resistant to treatment than cases of community-acquired pneumonia.
Steps We’re Taking to Prevent Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia
Because we know the dangers of HAP and understand our responsibility to keep patients and visitors safe at the hospital, we take great care to limit the spread of pneumonia. Here are a few of the things we’re encouraging our team and our patients to do to help us reduce HAP this time of year:
Practicing Good Oral Hygiene
Although pneumonia is a well-known illness, what many people don’t know is that good oral hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent it. We encourage our patients to brush their teeth three times a day to limit the cases of aspiration pneumonia, an especially dangerous form of the illness.
Because HAP is most commonly caused by the spread of germs at the hospital, we emphasize frequent handwashing by every member of our staff as well as those who visit the hospital. If you’re visiting the hospital, you can help, too, by washing your hands after you blow your nose or use the restroom.
We know that not everyone in the hospital can get up and be active, but for those who are able to spend part of their day out of bed and moving around, this can be an essential way to prevent pneumonia at the hospital.
Sitting Upright in Bed
As we noted above, aspiration pneumonia is a dangerous form of the illness. It’s caused by food or fluids that end up in the lungs instead of the stomach. One of the ways we try to limit the potential for this to happen is by encouraging patients to sit upright in their beds or chairs. This is especially true for patients who have trouble swallowing or coughing, as well as those who need to be fed by others during their stay.
Using a Spirometer
For people living with chronic diseases, such as COPD or emphysema, a spirometer is a device used to exercise the lungs in order to improve lung capacity and their ability to breathe. Our team recommends continued usage of a spirometer for those who need one as it’s one of the best ways to keep the lungs and airways open. This is also a good tool for people who are recently post surgery.
Although we’ve placed a special focus on preventing HAP this time of year, we always recommend people in our community get the seasonal flu vaccine to help prevent this form of pneumonia as well as community-acquired pneumonia. To learn more about pneumonia and how you can help prevent it for yourself and those around you, check out this article from the American Lung Association.