Pneumonia can be a very serious illness that becomes more prevalent during the winter months. Moreover, adults over the age of 50 are at higher risk from health complications associated with the infection.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be caused by any number of things, and can lead to symptoms that last for weeks or induce other health complications. For that reason, preventing the illness is very important.
Pneumonia can be very serious and becomes more prevalent during the winter months. Moreover, according to Know Pneumonia, adults over the age of 50 have a higher risk of developing the illness. Medscape reported that seniors represent 1 in 6 pneumonia diagnoses, and recommended taking measures to stay as healthy as possible.
What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a type of infection that affects a person's lungs, and there are many different causes and strains of the illness. Know Pneumonia reported that parasites, viruses, fungi or bacteria can cause pneumonia, as well as other disorders.
One form of the illness called Pneumococcal pneumonia is especially common and can be contracted throughout the year. According to Medscape, seniors are much more likely to require more advanced treatment for pneumococcal pneumonia. Things like drinking alcohol in excess, asthma or previous immunosuppression can also elevate a person's odds of developing a serious pneumonia case.
To make matters worse, symptoms may not be as pronounced at the onset of an infection in the elderly, which may make an early diagnosis difficult. Specifically, Medscape reported that the chills associated with pneumonia may not affect older adults. Chest pain and coughing may also be less severe in seniors than younger patients. Having said that, pneumonia may affect older adults' cognitive abilities or cause delirium.
Because the illness may be difficult to identify in the elderly, any changes in things like respiratory rate, blood pressure or mental status should be reported by either an individual or caregiver. According to Medscape, overlooking changes in those areas, especially at assisted living facilities where previous cases of pneumonia have been reported, can be a big mistake. Taking measures to lower the risk of infection is also important.
How to Prevent Pneumonia
According to the American Lung Association, there are a number of ways older adults can be proactive about minimizing the chances that they develop pneumonia this winter.
First of all, a vaccine for pneumococcal pneumonia is available and recommended for seniors. Likewise, the seasonal flu vaccine is advisable because influenza can lead to pneumonia. The ALA reported that diseases like chicken pox or measles can also complicate the risk of developing pneumonia. Taking preventative vaccines is advisable for any person, but is especially important for any older adult with pre-existing health complications.
Other ways of preventing pneumonia and staying healthy during the winter are very easy. According to the ALA, hand washing at meal time and after using the bathroom is very important for limiting the risk of sharing or contracting bacteria.
Smoking can also lead to pneumonia because it compromises the lungs' ability to fight off an infection. For that reason, it is recommended that smokers get vaccinated each winter against pneumonia, as well as the seasonal flu.
Overall, habits that promote good health are important for avoiding pneumonia and other illness, especially during the winter months. For example, eating healthful foods and staying well-hydrated are important for keeping the immune system running at its best. Exercise is also critical for keeping the body healthy, as is maintaining a regular sleep schedule. According to the ALA, not only will these measures help prevent sickness, but they also promote stronger recovery from pneumonia or other respiratory conditions.
Know Pneumonia reported that there are as many as 442,000 cases of the illness in older Americans each year. Because pneumonia can cause more serious health complications and can be difficult to diagnosis in seniors, taking preventative measures is crucial for staying healthy this winter.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living