ILLINOIS (WIFR) - As cold weather creeps across the region, another invisible foe threatens locals: pneumonia.

Local hospitals have reported an increase of pneumonia cases in recent weeks, some resulting in hospitalization, and even death. Health experts warn that something as simple as the common cold can quickly develop into pneumonia. This means the lower respiratory tract is facing an infection, making it hard to breathe. A rattling in the lungs following regular flu or cold symptoms indicate it’s time for a trip to the doctor.

“Start treatment early, wash your hands, take some steam, incorporate some healthy sleep habits and adequate hydration,” Dr. Syed Zaidi, OSF Family Medicine physician, says. "

Pneumonia often occurs as a secondary illness to an upper respiratory infection. Groups at greatest risk include the older generation, adults 65 and older and those who are chronically ill or immunocompromised. Children below the age of 5 are also at a higher risk of developing pneumonia but recover easier than other groups with the right treatment.

“Hot spots in terms of increasing your risk to susceptibility would really include health care workers, nursing homes, more closed quartered areas, as well, where ventilation and breathing may be of concern,” Dr. Zaidi says.

To protect yourself against developing pneumonia, Dr. Zaidi says talk to your doctor about which vaccinations are right for you.

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