Why Pneumonia Is So Dangerous for the Elderly

Pneumonia is a treatable illness that gets a bad reputation for turning serious without proper medical attention and care. This infection affects the air sacs in either one or both of your lungs. These sacs become inflamed filling with fluid or pus, which brings on fits of coughing, fever, chills, difficulty swallowing, and breathing. Pneumonia can be life-threatening to seniors exposed to bacteria, viruses, or fungi. It is most dangerous for people older than age 65 because seniors tend to have health issues or weakened immune systems. 

At Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine in Algonquin, Illinois, our specialists are trained in diagnosing, preventing, and treating pulmonary disorders by offering personalized treatment plans for your condition. 

Who's at risk? 

Pneumonia is an illness that can affect anyone. However, there are some groups of people that are at increased risk of contracting it. Children younger than 2 and adults over 65 are most at risk for pneumonia. It is an especially dangerous illness with severe consequences to both children and seniors because the presence of fluid in the alveoli makes it difficult for their lungs to work properly. 

As we age, our immune system tends to be less effective, making us more susceptible to illness. In seniors, the infection tends to be severe, warranting emergency treatment or even oxygen therapy. 

What are some symptoms of pneumonia?

Symptoms of pneumonia may seem similar to that of the flu, but they tend to last longer and be noticeably more aggressive. However, if you're older, it's essential to seek treatment right away to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. You should make an appointment to be evaluated by one of our specialists if you or a loved one is experiencing one of the following 

It is important to carefully monitor people who belong to at-risk groups for pneumonia due to a weakened immune system, age, or a chronic or acute condition. Receiving proper care in a timely matter is vital to fighting the infection before it becomes life-threatening. 

How is pneumonia diagnosed?

One of our specialists will determine if you're being affected by pneumonia with a comprehensive physical examination and evaluation of your medical history. Diagnostic tests may also help your provider decide what type of pathogen is causing your illness. These tests that will be performed may include 

Blood test 

Blood tests are conducted to confirm and identify the cause of the infection.

Chest X-ray 

A chest X-ray will help your doctor diagnose pneumonia, locate the site of infection, and check for the amount of inflammation.

Pulse oximetry

Pulse oximetry measures the levels of oxygen in your blood because pneumonia will often prevent your lungs from getting enough oxygen into your bloodstream. 

Sputum test 

A sputum test is carried out by using a sample of fluid from your lungs to determine the cause of infection. 

CT scan 

A CT scan may be recommended if your symptoms are progressing longer than expected. The scan will help the doctor obtain a clear image of your lungs. 

Pleural fluid culture 

A sample is taken from the pleural area between your ribcage using a needle. 

Treating pneumonia 

A treatment plan will be created for you by one of our providers who will take your age and overall health into consideration when prescribing you a treatment regimen. For more severe cases, antibiotics, cough medicines, and pain relievers are often taken in combination with oxygen therapy. Breathing treatments aim to help older adults suffering from pneumonia be able to prevent further complications. 

Seniors diagnosed with pneumonia must be careful to take all their medications as prescribed by the doctor. People who have existing health conditions are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pneumonia and should take extra precautions to prevent their condition from worsening. Allowing the body plenty of rest and hydration is one such way to speed up the recovery process. Caretakers and family members of older adults should carefully monitor the progression of their symptoms. 

Preventing pneumonia 

There are certain steps you can take that will reduce your chances of contracting the respiratory illness. Seniors should consider getting vaccinated for the flu as a preventive measure against all common respiratory illnesses. Maintaining a good health status is essential and can be achieved through regular rest, exercise, and a healthy diet. 

Taking care to avoid people who are ill is necessary if you are at risk for developing pneumonia. Seniors who are especially vulnerable to pneumonia should exercise caution when they're traveling, visiting with grandchildren, or taking a trip to the doctor's office. Medical-grade facial masks provide a layer of protection against harmful microbes. Regular washing of your hands is recommended for people of all ages despite risk level. 

Must, mold, or mildew can contribute to respiratory complications leaving you susceptible to more severe illnesses. Seniors and caretakers must be aware of their home’s cleanliness at all times, making sure it is kept as sanitary as possible. 

If you or a loved one is suffering from pneumonia-related symptoms, don't hesitate to book an apportionment online, or call our office today. 

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