(Friday, 31st Oct, 2014)
Pneumonia in older people
Pneumonia is a condition in which there is an infection in the lung.
It can be caused by many different organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, although bacteria are responsible for approximately 50% of cases. Infection usually occurs when a person breathes in these microorganisms.
Breathing corrosive chemicals or toxic gases from a fire into the stomach, can also cause pneumonia.
In some rare cases, pneumonia is contracted when bacterial colonies from infections in other parts of the body, travel to the lungs via the bloodstream.
While people of all ages can contract pneumonia, it most commonly affects older people, especially those over the age of 70.
If you have any of these symptoms, or notice them in anyone else, visit your doctor immediately.
Older people tend to be more at risk of developing pneumonia because of changes in their immune system. As they get older, their immune systems become weaker.
This is worsened if they have a chronic condition such as asthma or a heart condition.
As smoking can put people at risk, older people who smoke have probably done so for many years, increasing this risk even more.
Stroke can put people at risk of developing pneumonia and older people are more likely to have a stroke.
Hospitalisation is usually required, especially for older people and those who have a weak immune system.
Bacterial pneumonia is usually treated with antibiotics.
Other treatments, such as chest physiotherapy, may also be required.
There is a vaccine available to combat pneumococcus pneumonia, which is caused by the pneumococcus bacteria.
Around 50% of all pneumonia cases are caused by bacteria. The pneumococcus bacteria is the main cause of the most typical pneumonia.
This vaccine is particularly recommended for people who have had their spleen removed. Anyone over the age of 65 is also encouraged to consider it. People with chronic illnesses such as chronic heart disease are also recommended to have this vaccination.
This vaccine may be given at the same time as the flu vaccination. You can get further details from your doctor and discuss the advisability of having this vaccine with him / her.
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