Pneumonia is a well-known word with many unknowns about it. Does having a cough mean pneumonia? Why are elders more susceptible to it than younger adults? Is pneumonia contagious, especially in the elderly? Discovering the answers to your questions about pneumonia can help you prevent this illness, and you’ll be better equipped to handle pneumonia for yourself and for elderly loved ones.
How Common is Pneumonia in Seniors?
In America, 900,000 people acquire pneumonia each year, with 90 percent of cases being in adults. The infection is particularly common among the elderly and can have devastating effects if untreated.
Pneumonia can be caused by either:
There are debates on whether the disease is actually contagious. As it can be acquired in a hospital or within the community, it does spread from person to person relatively easily. This is usually due to insufficient handwashing, touching a contaminated object and putting hands in your mouth or sharing cups and other objects with someone contagious. As elderly people may not develop a sufficient immune reaction and may not exhibit symptoms straight away, they may be spreading the illness without knowing.
Those who have pneumonia usually have:
A weakened immune system due to natural ageing
A weakened immune system due to an immunological disorder
Have underlying respiratory diseases
Streptococcus pneumonia is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia and elderly people often have to be admitted to hospital for treatment. This is in the form of antibiotics, usually administered intravenously with fluids to avoid dehydration. The viral and fungal form cannot be treated by antibiotics but elderly people may be given antiviral or antifungal medicine due to the slower immune reaction. Look out for symptoms like coughing, wheezing, coughing up colored mucus or blood, chest pain, chills or high fever.
The solution to pneumonia is pharmaceutical medicines as the body’s immune system is unable to successfully fight it in seniors. If no treatment is administered, there may be complications such as organ failure, build up of fluid in the lungs or difficulty breathing. Read on for further information on how pneumonia is spread.
Author: Lucy Wyndham