Former rugby champ Gareth Thomas has stripped off and painted his body to remind us that pneumonia can strike even the healthiest of us.

Last year 40-year-old Gareth Thomas was struck down by pneumonia, a virus that claims the lives of over 50,000 of us in Britain every year. Even those, like Gareth who are healthy and active can be affected by it. As many as one in one hundred of us will develop the chronic condition, brought on by a bacterial infection which causes the tiny air sacs in your lungs to become inflamed and swell up with fluid, something that is very uncomfortable and debilitating.
Thomas who is fronting the campaign ‘Expect the Unexpected’ said,

“I was getting ready to take part in a pantomime last December, but had been suffering with a cold for a while,

“Once a cough came, everyone agreed I should go and see a doctor, who confirmed it was the back-end of a cold.

“I left it at that but I didn’t feel any better and it started to get worse and worse.

“The breaking point came in bed one night when I was coughing so hard I was sure I’d broken my ribs – I knew what broken ribs felt like, and I had that feeling. I was so tired of being ill, so frustrated and in so much pain that I started crying. I couldn’t take any more so decided to go to hospital.”

Doctors and healthcare professions are urging Brits to keep an eye on coughs and colds that won’t go away. Those living with HIV and other immune system issues should be especially aware about pneumonia symptoms, which you can read in the table above.
Dr Ben Marshall, a consultant in respiratory medicine and expert in the field of pneumonia from University Hospital Southampton comments,

“We find that there is still a lot of confusion between pneumonia and a ‘really bad cold.’ Symptoms are very similar, including cough, fever and shortness of breath. However, pneumonia is usually much worse, it is an infection in your lungs that requires antibiotics and can sometimes lead to hospitalisation. The risk of pneumonia increases with age and for those living with chronic conditions. If you are considered vulnerable, there are ways by which pneumonia can easily be prevented, please consult your local GP, nurse or pharmacist in this instance”

Thomas adds,

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“I now know to listen to my body; if I catch a cold this Christmas that seems to last longer than it should I’ll chat to my doctor, rather than try and tough it out.

“I’d definitely talk to my doctor about a vaccination, 100%. I would never want to go through this again and never want anyone else to have to experience it.

“I would take prevention for pneumonia as seriously as I take my flu jab, the flu is a walk in the park compared to pneumonia.”