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 such as sarcoidosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Breathing in certain substances such as mold, fungus, or asbestos are also known causes. Some medicines and radiation treatments can also cause interstitial lung disease.

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

Prevent infection

Close-up of hands at sink washing in running water.
Wash hands often with soap and warm water.

  • Practice correct handwashing. Wash hands often.

    • Use soap and warm water and scrub your hands for 15 to 20 seconds.

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

  • Don't touch your face and mouth with your hands.

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

  • Stay away from people who have a cold or the flu.

  • Try to stay away from crowded places.

  • Don't smoke and don't let people smoke in your home or car.

Get vaccinated

Talk with your healthcare provider about vaccines.

  • 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 pneumococcal pneumonia vaccines, as advised by your healthcare provider.

Take care of your body

  • Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.

  • Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals.

  • Don't drink alcohol.

  • Don't smoke. Stay away from places where people are smoking.

  • Stay away from irritants. Try to stay away from chemicals, fumes, and dust in your home and the workplace. Stay indoors on smoggy days. Reduce your exposure to outdoor pollution.

  • Don’t be afraid to be active. Being active may make you short of breath. But it's good for your lungs. Exercise can strengthen the muscles that help you breathe. Ask your healthcare provider about safe exercises for you.

  • Get regular check-ups. See your provider even when you are feeling well.

  • Ask your 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 call your healthcare provider

If you start to get sick, call your healthcare provider. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Increased shortness of breath with normal activities

  • A fever of 100.4° F ( 38°C ) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Shaking or chills

  • Increased coughing or coughing up dark or bloody mucus

  • Increased tiredness and lack of energy (fatigue)

  • Chest tightness or wheezing 

  • Chest pain 

  • Ankle swelling or fast weight gain

Call 911

Call 911 if any of your symptoms are severe.

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