Even though many people think of pneumonia as a wintertime illness, it can strike during any season of the year. It can be caused by one of many different types of bacteria, viruses, fungi-or even an injury, such as exposure to chemical fumes (from a chlorine spill, for example). People who are at greatest risk for pneumonia are older adults and newborns, smokers, heavy drinkers, people with pre-existing lung disease or compromised immune systems, or anyone who is bedridden or has limited mobility (which increases risk for buildup of mucus in the lungs). Fortunately, you can take steps to protect yourself. My secrets to avoiding pneumonia…

  • Consider getting a pneumonia vaccination. Discuss the vaccine with your doctor if you are age 65 or older-or at any age if you have congestive heart failure, a compromised immune system, liver or lung disease or diabetes, or if you are a smoker or heavy drinker. The vaccine can help prevent a common type of pneumonia caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium.
  • Take vitamin A daily. Vitamin A deficiency can cause drying of the respiratory-tract lining and a reduction in cilia, the hairlike tissues that move mucus and debris out of the lungs. Both changes make the lungs vulnerable to infection and inflammation. A total daily dose of 10,000 international units (IU) of vitamin A can help keep your lungs healthy.

Caution: Vitamin A is toxic when consumed in high doses over long periods of time. Consult your doctor before taking more than 10,000 IU of vitamin A daily. If you have liver disease or are pregnant, do not take supplemental vitamin A. In addition, some research suggests that smokers should not take vitamin A supplements.

  • Get more vitamin C daily. The results of studies on the immune-enhancing effects of vitamin C have been mixed. However, I'm convinced-based on my clinical experience—that a daily dose of vitamin C does, in fact, help the immune system resist disease and is essential to combating the immune-draining effects of stress, a chief cause of illness.

I recommend a daily total of 1,000 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C.

  • Treat upper respiratory infections (URIS) promptly and effectively. Quite often, pneumonia develops from the spread of inflammation caused by a viral infection, such as bronchitis. My advice: Rest (forgo your usual activities, including going to work)...and hydrate (drink 68 ounces of water daily). For a cold or bronchitis, I recommend drinking a tincture made from extracts of the powerful antiviral botanical medicines elder, echinacea, eyebright and licorice-15 drops of each in one ounce of water, 15 minutes before or after meals, every four waking hours for several days.

Caution: Omit licorice if you have high blood pressure or heart disease—the herb may affect blood pressure or cause heart problems.

  • Don't delay a doctor visit if you suspect pneumonia. Typical symptoms include a cough, fever, shortness of breath and fatigue. An early diagnosis increases your chance of a good outcome.

Osteoarthritis Eased by Topical Remedies

In a study of 204 people with osteoarthritis of I the hands, those who rubbed arnica gel (an herbal remedy) over their affected joints three times a day for 21 days had similar improvements in pain, grip strength and hand-function measures as those who used 5% ibuprofen gel. Unlike oral ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, topical arnica and ibuprofen gel generally do not cause stomach upset.

Theory: Both therapies have anti-inflammatory effects. If you have osteoarthritis of the hands ask your doctor if arnica gel or ibuprofen gel is appropriate for you.

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