While training at Kings County Hospital in internal medicine, I often had to admit many patients with pneumonia. During their hospital stays, some would do well while others did poorly.

In reviewing their medical histories, I saw that those who did not do well usually had histories of alcoholism. These patients would have an extended hospitalization and needed a great deal of respiratory assistance. After many weeks of the best medical care, many of these patients died of respiratory complications.

Generally, all of the patients with pneumonia were treated with one or two antibiotics. These drugs were used to kill the bacteria, with the help of cells that were produced by the immune system. The immune system produced cells that would assist the body in its defense. If the defense mechanism were compromised by poor nutrition and toxic materials, such as alcohol, patients did poorly.

A condition referred to as acute respiratory disease syndrome is caused by bacteria that invade the lungs and produce severe inflammation of the lining of the small ducts and air sacs of the lungs. The cloudiness seen on x-rays is caused by a collection of pus in the ducts and air sacs. Although the antibiotics have killed the germs, the body produces cells to remove damaged tissue.

In 2002, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, issued by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, reported that in the U.S., 17.6 million adults were alcohol abusers. Within this group, a large percentage of deaths from pneumonia occurred. The sixth most-common cause of death in the U.S. was pneumonia.

It is obvious that alcohol abuse and pneumonia are deadly. Alcohol in any form, including beer, wine and before and after dinner cocktails, affects the immune system, which protects the body from invading germs. Alcohol is a toxic substance that affects organs of the body, such as the brain, heart, liver, kidneys and lungs. It lowers the total resistance of the body.

As winter approaches and upper respiratory conditions increase, pneumonia will result in many of these cases requiring hospitalization. I would advise that you strongly remember, “You’ll lose, with pneumonia and booze.” If you are considered to be an alcohol abuser, it is extremely important that you protect your body with good nutrition consisting of an ample amount of fruits and fresh vegetables and also a potent over-the-counter multiple vitamin. This regimen should include the pneumoccal vaccine as well as the influenza vaccine.

Alcohol abuse is obviously capable of shortening one’s life. There are many programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, that will help you become alcohol free and live a better quality of life.