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Preventing & Diagnosing Pneumonia

Preventing & Diagnosing Pneumonia

Managing Your Risks of Pneumonia This Season

As colder weather heads our way, seasonal illnesses, including the flu, tend to spike. However, one condition that isn’t focused on enough is pneumonia — a severe lung infection that can be life-threatening, especially for seniors. Keep reading to learn more about what causes pneumonia, who’s at a higher risk, and methods for prevention and treatment.

What Causes Pneumonia?

Pneumonia causes inflammation within the air sacs in the lungs and can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. It is usually spread through the air via respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing.

If you have an existing illness, such as COPD, heart disease, or cancer, you’re more likely to get pneumonia. This is because these illnesses make it harder for your body to fight infection. Pneumonia can also be caused by certain medications, such as steroids and chemotherapy drugs, and inhaling irritants like smoke, chemicals, or dust. This is called chemical pneumonia.

Symptoms of Pneumonia

Seniors are at a higher risk for developing pneumonia because they often have other medical conditions that weaken the immune system. They may also be taking medications that suppress the immune system. Symptoms of pneumonia can include:

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating and shaking
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue

Preventing Pneumonia

Seniors need to take extra precautions to prevent pneumonia, such as getting the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine (if recommended by their doctor), washing their hands regularly, and avoiding close contact with sick people.

Treating Pneumonia

If you think you or a loved one may have pneumonia, it’s essential to see a doctor immediately, as pneumonia can quickly become life-threatening. The doctor will likely order a chest X-ray and/or blood tests to diagnose pneumonia. Treatment usually involves rest, fluids, and antibiotics (if the pneumonia is caused by bacteria). In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary.

By taking some simple precautions, you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from pneumonia. If you or someone you know starts showing symptoms of pneumonia, don’t delay in seeking medical attention.