Protecting Seniors from Pneumonia

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As the days pass and the days get colder, discussions surrounding staying healthy usually focus around trying to prevent the flu. While that’s important, it’s also very important to discuss pneumonia as another infection that is highly common among seniors.

Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus (purulent material), causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing, according to Mayo Clinic.

As a loved one, it’s important to know the causes, symptoms and prevention for pneumonia just in case your family member starts to feel ill.

Causes of Pneumonia: 

According to the American Lung Association, there are more than 30 different causes of pneumonia. It’s important to understand what causes this sickness because that can help to know how to treat it. While there are many causes, it’s typically one of these five reasons as to what causes pneumonia:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Mycoplasmas
  • Other infections agents, such as fungi
  • Inhaling various chemical and environmental agents 

Symptoms of Pneumonia:

As a family member or loved one, it’s helpful to know the signs and symptoms of pneumonia so you can be prepared if the time ever comes. While symptoms of pneumonia can be similar to the flu, these symptoms usually last longer.

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Green or yellow phlegm that comes up while coughing
  • Feeling lethargic

Prevention of Pneumonia:

  • Get the flu shot: The flu is the most common predecessor to pneumonia in elderly people. We recommend that seniors over the age off 65 get a flu shot each year as well as a pneumococcal vaccine that protects against pneumonia bacteria.
  • Wash your hands: It’s important for seniors to keep their hands germ-free by washing them often. If you’re a caregiver, you should be washing them just as much, too.
  • Exercise, rest and practice healthy eating habit: Make sure your loved ones are drinking lots of fluids and avoiding anything that might cause stress and weaken the immune system. They should eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Without proper nutrients, seniors can become malnourished and thus, have a harder time fighting off illness.

Keep in mind that prevention is much better than treatment. Seniors who are hospitalized for pneumonia are at a higher risk for long-term physical and mental problems. Now that you know the causes, symptoms and prevention of pneumonia, you can be prepared if your loved one falls ill. If you think they might have pneumonia, contact their doctor right away.

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