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Interstitial Lung Disease: Preventing Lung Infections

Interstitial lung disease is a group of conditions with inflammation and scarring around the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. The changes make it hard to take in oxygen. Often the cause is unknown. This is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Known causes are conditions like sarcoidosis and rheumatoid arthritis. And, breathing in certain substances like mold fungus, or asbestos. Some medications and radiation treatments can also cause interstitial lung disease.

When you have interstitial lung disease, you're more likely to develop lung infections. Do what you can to prevent infections. And get prompt treatment at the first sign of illness.

Close-up of hands at sink washing in running water.

Avoid infection

  • Wash hands often.

    • Use soap and warm water.

    • If soap and water are not available, use a hand cleaner with alcohol in it.

  • Avoid touching your face and mouth with your hands.

  • Use disposable tissues instead of a handkerchief. Throw away used tissues.

  • Avoid people who have a cold or the flu.

  • Try to avoid crowded pages.

Get vaccinated

Talk with your health care provider about vaccinations. You should get a yearly flu shot and at least one pneumococcal shot.

Get a flu vaccine every year as soon as it's available in your area. The flu shot helps prevent you from getting the flu and complications of the flu, such as pneumonia.

Get a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine. Most people only need one vaccine. It helps protect you against one of the most common causes of pneumonia.

Take care of your body

Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.

Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals.

Avoid drinking alcohol.

Don't smoke. Avoid places where people are smoking.

Ask your health care provider what type of activity is best for you. Walking is often a good choice.

Get enough rest. Sleep at least 8 hours each night. Rest or nap during the day as needed.

When to seek medical care

If you start to get sick, call your health care provider. If you have severe symptoms, call 911 or go to your hospital's emergency department. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Increased shortness of breath with normal activities

  • A fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • Increased coughing or coughing up dark or bloody mucus

  • Increased fatigue

  • Chest tightness or wheezing 

  • Chest pain 

  • Ankle swelling or rapid weight gain

 

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