As cold and flu season approaches, the rate of pneumonia cases increases, particularly in the elderly and the young. Pneumonia is infection of the lungs and surrounding tissues. It often follows a cold or bronchitis, but in older people it might develop even if the person hasn’t been sick. In addition, it has a tendency to be more serious with older people, often necessitating hospitalization.
Bacteria, viruses, and fungi most commonly cause pneumonia, and coughing is one of your body’s defenses to fight it. Sometimes, however, when you are in a weakened condition, your coughing may not be vigorous enough; and generally aging weakens the immune system. You are more prone to pneumonia under the following conditions:
- If your lungs have been damaged by smoking;
- If your lungs have been damaged by recent infection such as a cold or influenza;
- If for some reason you are too weak to cough vigorously;
- If you are undernourished;
- If you have certain diseases such as diabetes or cancer;
- If you are taking certain drugs.
If you have pneumonia you may display some of the following symptoms:
- A strong cough producing mucus that is yellow, green or red;
- Fever accompanied by chills;
- Shortness of breath;
- Chest pain;
- Extreme fatigue.
If you want to prevent pneumonia there are some things you can do.
- If you are over 65 you should get a pneumococcal vaccination. If you have Medicare Part B, you pay nothing for these shots.
- Stay as healthy as you can by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting enough rest.
If you suspect you do have pneumonia, however, you should see a doctor right away. If it’s caught early enough you may not need to be hospitalized. The doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics, and you should take the entire course of whatever is prescribed. Get lots of rest, and drink extra liquids to help thin out the mucus.
In seniors, pneumonia is an extremely serious illness. Prevent it if you can, but if you do contract it, get help from a medical professional.