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Urgent winter warning over stealth killer pneumonia – the 15 signs you must never ignore

MORE people die from pneumonia in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, new data reveals.

As winter draws in, experts have urged Brits to be on the lookout for any potential warning signs in order to prevent serious illness – even death.

Data crunched by Asthma + Lung UK found that each year more than 25,000 people die from pneumonia in the UK

Pneumonia is a swelling of the tissue in one or both lungs and is often caused by a bacterial infection or a virus, the NHS states.

Data crunched by Asthma + Lung UK found that each year more than 25,000 people die from pneumonia in the UK – a death rate that surpasses all other European countries.

Sarah Woolnough, CEO at the charity said: “It’s shocking the UK has the most deaths from pneumonia in Europe.

“The state of lung health isn’t good enough and we must do better to protect people from life-threatening chest infections, such as pneumonia.”

She warned this winter will be “hard on the nation’s lungs”, with higher rates of respiratory infections expected, and people struggling to heat their homes forced to stay in the cold.

While the elderly are the most at risk from the condition, the charity has warned that it can be life-threatening at any age.

Now, they are calling on those who are eligible to get their one-off pneumonia vaccine – adding it could prove a life-saver for many.

This includes people with underlying health problems, including severe asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“The best thing you can do if you have a lung condition is make sure your vaccines are up to date, including the flu jab, and if you are eligible the Covid and pneumonia vaccine,” Ms Woolnough added.

“It could save your life.”

Those eligible for a free pneumonia vaccine on the NHS include:

  • Adults aged 65 or older
  • Adults and kids with a long-term health condition including COPD, pulmonary fibrosis and severe asthma
  • Adults at occupational risk, such as metal workers and welders
  • Babies as part of their usual vaccination schedule.


Jardine Howlett, a public relations manager from West Sussex, knows only too well the dangers pneumonia poses.

The 39-year-old went to bed the night before her son’s birthday in 2017, feeling unwell.

“I woke in the middle of the night gasping for breath,” she said.

“It was absolutely terrifying.”

Jardine desperately dialled 999 and with no time to kiss her son’s goodbye, she was rushed to hospital with lung failure, and coughing up blood in the back of the ambulance.

Within minutes of arriving at hospital, she was hooked up to IV antibiotics, transferred to ICU and put into an induced coma.

“It turned out I had pneumonia, caused by a bacterial infection,” she added.

“I didn’t return home for almost three months, I was lucky to return home at all.

“You think of pneumonia as something that only affects older people, but it can affect anyone, at any age and it can trigger life-threatening complications.”


Now, Jardine is backing the charity’s call for people to get vaccinated.

“While I was lucky, there were side effects, such as breathlessness, fatigue and brain fog, which lingered and my lungs are still my weak spot,” the 39-year-old warned.

“I want to encourage everyone, especially those who are vulnerable, to keep up to date with their vaccines.

“I have a pneumonia vaccine every five years, a yearly flu vaccine and the latest Covid jab. Prevention is better than a cure.”


Across the UK, data shows there have been a total of 126,229 deaths from lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIS) over the last five years.

LRTIs include pneumonia, acute bronchitis and bronchiolitis, influenza and whooping cough, but the majority of deaths seen in this category are from pneumonia.

In England, 81.9 per cent of LRTI deaths in 2017-2021 were from pneumonia.

Of those that die, 85 per cent are over the age of 75, – age is the biggest risk factor for dying from pneumonia.

If you are worried about pneumonia and its symptoms, or would like advice on getting the vaccine, you can call the helpline on 0300 222 5800.

In an emergency, you should always call 999.



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