5 Ways to Prevent Pneumonia in the Elderly
Last Updated: October 23, 2018
As the weather gets colder and wetter, we start to hear a lot about flu season — but it’s also important to stay informed about another infection that’s potentially dangerous for our older loved ones: pneumonia.
Keep your parents and senior loved ones safe from a serious respiratory infection this year by following these five simple tips.
5 Ways to Prevent Pneumonia
Pneumonia can originate from bacteria, viruses and other causes, but regardless of the cause of infection, it is one of the most common illnesses in older adults. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that more than 60% of seniors over 65 are admitted to hospitals due to pneumonia.
Follow these five steps to prevent pneumonia in an older loved one as the season gets colder and wetter this year:
1. Don’t smoke.
Smoking is a major risk factor for pneumonia — it greatly increases a person’s likelihood of getting the disease, because it harms the ability of the lungs to defend against infection. Quitting smoking can help at-risk seniors defend against pneumonia.
2. Have parents and senior loved ones get immunized.
The Mayo Clinic and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute both advise seniors and others at risk for pneumonia to get vaccinated against bacterial pneumococcal pneumonia. It’s a one-time vaccine that can prevent or reduce the severity of pneumonia. Your doctor may also suggest a booster vaccine after 5 years. It’s also a good idea to vaccinate seniors against other illnesses that can lead to pneumonia, particularly influenza.
3. Know the symptoms of pneumonia.
There are challenges to the diagnosis of pneumonia in seniors because they may not suffer the classic symptoms like chills, cough and fever, according to the Infectious Disease Clinics of North America. Keep an eye out for non-respiratory symptoms like confusion, delirium or dizziness. Also, it may be more difficult to notice pneumonia symptoms in seniors with preexisting conditions, so be alert to any changes in your parent or senior loved one’s health and see a doctor if any unusual symptoms occur.
4. Practice good hygiene habits.
Ordinary respiratory infections, colds and influenza can sometimes lead to pneumonia; the Mayo Clinic advises that you wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer to help prevent the spread of these illnesses. Other types of infections, like dental or oral infections, can also lead to pneumonia, so good dental hygiene is a must. Lastly, if you want to prevent pneumonia in older loved ones, make sure you help them avoid others who are ill, whether it’s routine illnesses like colds, flu and respiratory infections, or more serious diseases like chickenpox or measles. All of these can lead to pneumonia.
5. Stay in good health.
Good overall health habits are critical to preventing pneumonia in seniors because they keep the immune system strong and able to fight off infection. Make sure your parent or senior loved one follows appropriate nutrition guidelines for seniors, as well as getting plenty of physical exercise and rest.
What other suggestions do you have for preventing pneumonia and seasonal respiratory infections? We’d like to hear your tips in the comments below.
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