Joe Elliott health: Singer was advised by doctors to 'retire' after pneumonia diagnosis

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Despite initially continuing to perform whilst he had the infection, Elliott’s health soon caught up with him and the band had to postpone 10 dates on their tour at the time. What started as a five day break from performing turned into a gruelling five months of working with a vocal coach every day, in order for Elliott to keep his vocals intact and still be able to perform with the band. The NHS explains that pneumonia is a swelling of the tissue in one or both of the lungs that is usually caused by a bacterial infection. For some, pneumonia can cause severe symptoms and leave them struggling to breathe.

In an interview back in 2015, the 62-year-old opened up about his own personal experience with the infection, saying: “When I got pneumonia and I got the hundred day cough, it totally destroyed my vocal cords.

“My throat doctor said to me, ‘If you weren’t you I’d tell you to retire because this is never going to get better’.

“I took a five-day break thinking, ‘This has always sorted me out in the past.’ It didn’t.

“We had to cancel a tour, and I had to take five months of working every single day for an hour or two with my vocal coach, who’s also a shrink in many respects.”

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Although usually caused by a bacterial infection, pneumonia can affect anyone of any age in the other following ways:

  • Viral pneumonia – caused by a virus, such as COVID-19
  • Aspiration pneumonia – caused by breathing in vomit, a foreign object, such as a peanut, or a harmful substance, such as smoke or a chemical
  • Fungal pneumonia – rare in the UK and more likely to affect people with a weakened immune system
  • Hospital-acquired pneumonia – pneumonia that develops in hospital while being treated for another condition or having an operation; people in intensive care on breathing machines are particularly at risk of developing ventilator-associated pneumonia.

The main symptoms of pneumonia develop suddenly, over 24 to 48 hours. However in some cases they develop over several days.

The most common symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • A cough – which may be dry, or produce thick yellow, green, brown or blood-stained mucus (phlegm)
  • Difficulty breathing – your breathing may be rapid and shallow, and you may feel breathless, even when resting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High temperature
  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Sweating and shivering
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chest pain – which gets worse when breathing or coughing.

Although less common, some individuals may cough up blood, feel sick, start to wheeze or suffer from headaches.

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Currently it might be hard to distinguish between signs and symptoms of Covid and pneumonia, but the NHS recommends that if anyone has a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss to their sense of smell or taste they should take a Covid test or contact the online 111 Covid service.

However, if individuals are struggling to breathe, have blue lips or face, feel cold and sweaty or collapse, the emergency services should be contacted or the individual taken to A&E.

Speaking more about his lengthy recovery process and the improvements he has seen in his vocals back in 2020, Elliott said: “And it took me about 18 months to totally get my voice into a condition where I was happy with it.

“I was probably as good as I was before, but then all of a sudden, my voice got better and better.

“I worked incredibly hard with a vocal coach from Los Angeles. When we realised we’d be going out on tour with almost 250 shows and no opening act, so two and a half hours a night, we knew that we were going to need training.

“We worked with the vocal coach, who doesn’t teach you to sing, he teaches you how not to use your voice. Exercising it properly before you go out on stage.

“I managed to get back out there that summer, but had to work with him on every day off. I just got more accurate. I’ll be the first to say I’m no Paul Rodgers, but I’ve got a style that’s recognisable that now, at the age of 60, is better than it was at 20.

“And it just keeps getting better and better and better because I know how to look after it, I don’t smoke anymore.”

Medical website Drugs.com explains that bacterial infections that affect breathing tubes or lungs can also infect the larynx, inflaming the vocal cords, which can be made worse by straining the voice, singing or yelling. This can eventually lead to laryngitis which can cause:

  • Hoarseness
  • Raw throat
  • Constant need to clear your throat.

In order to treat bacterial infections like pneumonia, individuals are advised to get plenty of rest, take antibiotics and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

For those classed in an “at-risk” group, pneumonia can be severe and may need to be treated in hospital in order to avoid more serious complications such as sepsis, a lung abscess and a condition known as pleurisy – where the thin linings between your lungs and ribcage (pleura) become inflamed.

In order to best protect yourself and minimise the risk of developing especially bacterial pneumonia, individuals should practise good hygiene standards. This includes covering your mouth when sneezing, throwing away tissues after they have been used and washing hands regularly to avoid transferring germs to other people or on objects.



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