Winter is in the air so it’s the right time to think about pneumonia in the elderly. Pneumonia starts when a virus, fungus, or bacterium get into one of your lungs. It causes the tiny sacs inside your lungs to become inflamed and fill with fluid or pus. Healthy people who get treated immediately can fight off pneumonia, but the elderly may develop complications.
Most of the time, your body filters germs from the air to protect your lungs. If they do get in, your immune system usually fights them off. But sometimes your lungs can get infected. When they get infected, your immune system attack the germs. Your lungs become inflamed and pneumonia sets in.
How to tell if you have pneumonia
Do you have a high fever, chills, shortness of breath, and chest pain when you breathe? Do you have a deep cough and phlegm? If your symptoms persist, it’s time to see your doctor. He’ll listen to your lungs for crackling or wheezing and he may ask for a chest X-ray to get an image your lungs.
What causes pneumonia?
- Bacteria Most cases of pneumonia in U.S. adults are caused by bacteria. Antibiotics can kill them and help you get better. Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia is caused by Legionella bacteria. This bacteria causes headache, muscle pain, chills, and very high fever. You may also cough up blood and have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It is treated with antibiotics.
- Virus The flu virus is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in adults, but any virus that infects your mouth, nose, throat, or lungs can lead to it. The symptoms are usually milder than with bacterial pneumonia, and your body typically fights it off in 1 to 3 weeks.
- Fungi Some fungi can cause pneumonia. Antifungal drugs are usually used to treat it.
Complications caused by pneumonia
- Lung Abscess This is a sore in your lung that’s filled with fluid or pus. Antibiotics usually cure these, but sometimes it’s better to drain them.
- Breathing difficulty Elderly people often have weaker lungs. In these cases, you may not be getting enough oxygen into your blood. Your doctor may recommend using a breathing mask or a ventilator until your lung heals.
Vaccines can protect you from certain kinds of pneumonia. Try also to keep your hands and face clean with soap or hand sanitizer to kill germs. Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to keep your immune system strong.