Advocates want the NHS to prioritize respiratory services as the health service braces for one of the toughest winters in its history.

An urgent warning has been issued over an increasing risk of pneumonia as winter approaches. New research has found that more people die from pneumonia in the UK than anywhere else in Europe. And with the NHS already bursting at its seams as it prepares for what may just one of its toughest winters yet, there are calls for the health service to make respiratory services a priority.

Increased risk

Pneumonia swelling (inflammation) of the tissue in one or both lungs. It's usually caused by a bacterial infection or a virus, the NHS says on its website. This condition can affect people of any age, but it's more common, and can be more serious, in certain groups of people, such as the very young or the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes. People in these groups are more likely to need hospital treatment if they develop pneumonia.

Common symptoms of the disease include:

  • a cough which may be dry, or produce thick yellow, green, brown or blood-stained phlegm
  • difficulty breathing which may be rapid and shallow, and you may feel breathless, even when resting
  • chest pain which gets worse when breathing or coughing
  • rapid heartbeat
Getty/ Luis Alvarez

Other signs to look out for include high temperature, feeling lethargic, sweating and shivering as well as loss of appetite.

How to keep safe

Leading lung charity, Asthma + Lung UK’s data has revealed that each year more than 25,000 people die from pneumonia in the UK. Mild pneumonia can usually be treated at home by resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia. At-risk groups could experience more severe symptoms like bloody coughs and may require hospital treatment.

Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can weaken your lungs, increasing the chance of infection. A lifestyle change in these areas would be beneficial. Also, people at high risk of pneumonia should be offered the pneumococcal vaccine and flu vaccine, the NHS advises.

Sources used:

Mirror: Urgent warning over pneumonia this winter - symptoms you shouldn't ignore

NHS: Overview: Pneumonia

News Medical: Analysis reveals highest number of pneumonia deaths in the UK

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