Pneumonia is the inflammation of the tissues of the lungs. It usually occurs due to an infection. Pneumonia in people 65 years of age or older can become serious because of the increased risk of developing complications.
According to American Lung Association (ALA), older people have a higher risk of developing serious illness from pneumonia. This is because the immune system becomes less able to fight off disease.
The United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) state that it may develop suddenly in 1 to 2 days or appear slowly over several days.
This article explores pneumonia in the elderly in more detail, including when to seek emergency help, symptoms, recovery, and risk factors.
According to a 2017 review, typical symptoms of pneumonia include:
However, the review says these typical symptoms are unclear in older people and may not present fully.
the TO THE Note that older people may have fewer and milder symptoms, and possibly a lower than normal temperature.
Symptoms of pneumonia in the elderly can include:
- poor coordination, which can cause falls
- sudden change in daily functioning
- reduced appetite
Bacterial pneumonia is the most common form of the disease and can be more serious.
the TO THE indicate that symptoms may develop suddenly or gradually. These symptoms include:
- a fever that can reach high temperatures, such as 105°F
- increased breathing and pulse
- bluish lips and nails
the TO THE note that symptoms of viral pneumonia develop over several days. Initially, a person may experience:
- dry cough
- muscle pain
- muscular weakness
After a day or two, the symptoms get worse and a person may experience:
- increased cough
- shortness of breath
- muscle pain
- high fever
- blue lips
Pneumonia can quickly become serious for the elderly.
If a person suspects that they, or an older relative, may have pneumonia, they should see a doctor immediately.
If symptoms are severe or do not improve, an older person may need to go to the hospital.
People should contact emergency services immediately if they experience:
- breathing difficulties
- a blue face or lips
- cough up blood
- chest pain
- high fever
- severe cough with mucus
- sweating and feeling cold, with paler, discolored, or mottled skin
- fainting or collapsing
- drowsiness or confusion
- a rash that doesn’t go away after you roll a drink on it
According to TO THE, in most cases, people with pneumonia can treat their symptoms at home by:
- taking aspirin to help reduce fever
- drink plenty of fluids, both cold and hot
- using a humidifier or taking a hot bath
- avoid smoking and secondhand smoke
- a lot of rest
A person should not take cough medicine unless a doctor recommends this course of action.
If the cause of pneumonia is bacterial, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics. People should complete the entire course of antibiotics even if they feel better, as stopping them early could trigger the infection again.
If an elderly person needs to be hospitalized with pneumonia, they may need oxygen therapy, as well as an intravenous (IV) drip to receive fluids.
Recovery from pneumonia in the elderly can be a long process. According to a article 2017, although some recover in 6 weeks, it may take up to 12 weeks for others.
It is important to rest as long as possible during recovery.
The British Lung Foundation suggests the following recovery chronology:
There is no sure way to prevent pneumonia. However, people can help reduce their chances of developing the disease with the following:
- Hand hygiene: A person should wash their hands regularly to remove any germs.
- Stop smoking: A
Systematic reviewof smoking on the development of pneumonia in the community demonstrates a strong association between them. This suggests that smokers are at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
The CDC recommends that all adults 65 years of age or older get the PPSV223 vaccine.
The PCV13 vaccine is suitable for people 65 years of age or older, who have:
- a cochlear implant
- cerebrospinal fluid leak
- conditions that weaken the immune system
It is important to note that people cannot get both shots at the same time.
If a healthcare professional recommends receiving both, get the PCV13 vaccine first. A doctor can advise you when to come back for the second shot.
Sometimes older people can develop pneumonia after a hospital stay. In these cases, a healthcare professional may discuss hospital-acquired pneumonia.
However, people can get pneumonia in the community as well. People can call it community-acquired pneumonia.
The causes of pneumonia include:
- Bacteria: Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common type of bacterial pneumonia. It can develop after a person has a cold or the viral flu.
- Virus: The influenza virus is a common cause of viral pneumonia. The virus enters the lungs and multiplies.
- Mushrooms : Fungal pneumonia occurs when people are exposed to fungi from bird droppings or contaminated soil.
Besides age, others risk factors pneumonia include:
The elderly have a more likely to develop complications from pneumonia. Here are some examples:
- Pleurisy: A condition where the pleura becomes inflamed. The pleura are the two large layers of tissue that separate the lungs from the chest wall. Pleurisy can cause respiratory failure.
- Lung abscess: Where the tissue on the lung dies and pus grows in the resulting space. It’s a raD complication and can occur in people with a history of alcohol abuse or serious pre-existing illnesses.
- Sepsis: When it comes to pneumonia, infection of the lungs can trigger a life-threatening immune response in other parts of the body.
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS): A severe form of respiratory failure.
Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs that can occur due to viral, bacterial, or fungal infections.
Older people have a higher risk of developing complications from severe pneumonia. If a person suspects that they or an elderly person has pneumonia, they should seek immediate medical attention.
If treatment is started early, it increases the chances of recovery and reduces the risk of complications.