How To Keep Ageing Parents From Contracting Pneumonia – Pneumococcal vaccines provide significant protection against not only pneumonia and other respiratory diseases but also COVID-19. @Shutterstock

World Pneumonia Day 2022: How to prevent pneumonia in old age?

World Pneumonia Day 2022: Pneumonia in elderly adults can be severe and even deadly. However, the primary reason for the severity of the disease can be attributed to ageing, as it weakens the immune system, making the body vulnerable to various infections and diseases. In addition, older adults having other underlying health conditions can cause the infection to become more severe, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and heart disease. Hence special care and precautions should be gauged to protect the family’s elders from the ailment. But before discussing the preventive means, Dr Prateek Bhardwaj, COO of Vesta ElderCare, makes us understand the traits and whereabouts of pneumonia.

Pneumonia: The Infection

It is a respiratory infection that causes inflammation in the alveoli- the air sacs in the lungs. As a result, the alveoli may fill with fluid or pus, making it difficult for oxygen to flow through the bloodstream. It eventually causes breathing problems, fever, chills, and other symptoms. The severity of the infection depends on age, overall health, and the cause of the illness.

Causes Of Pneumonia In Elderly

As per the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, foreign organisms like viruses, bacteria, and fungi entering the lungs can cause pneumonia. However, pneumonia is usually caused by bacteria or a virus, including the virus responsible for COVID-19 – SARS-CoV-2. The influenza virus is the most common cause of viral pneumonia, especially in people with other health conditions such as lung or heart disease.

Pneumonia-Related Problems In Older People Include:

  1. Bacteremia is a potentially lethal infection that spreads to other organs after entering the circulation through the lungs.
  2. Pleurisy, an inflammation of the pleura, the membrane that protects the lungs, may call for surgery or the removal of contaminated fluid from the lungs.
  3. Lung abscess: It is a condition wherein the affected region of the lung gets filled with pus.
  4. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) develops when pneumonia causes severe lung damage that results in respiratory failure and may call for using a mechanical ventilator to assist with breathing.

Preventing Pneumonia In Older Adults

Preventive measures for pneumonia can be summed up as follows:

  1. Getting the pneumococcal vaccine helps prevent pneumonia due to S. pneumoniae. Enquire about the two pneumococcal vaccines for adults from a medical expert practitioner about the most suitable for you.
  2. Yearly influenza vaccine: Pneumonia is a flu complication; therefore, ensure to get your annual flu vaccine. A high-dose flu vaccine is specially formulated for adults 65 years and older.
  3. Washing your hands regularly: Practising good hand hygiene helps prevent various infections, and washing hands is just one of them.
  4. Avoiding smoking: Smoking damages the lungs making it hard to fight a respiratory infection.
  5. Manage chronic conditions: Underlying health conditions like diabetes, asthma, and COPD can worsen pneumonia.

Deforestation, climate change, and seasonal change add to the struggles of the people, not limited to the seniors, to deal with the rising level of air pollution causing allergies that damage your lungs. Hence a word of advice for all would be ‘Prevention is better than Cure.

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