What causes pneumonia in seniors?
A number of organisms can cause pneumonia, but the elderly are more susceptible to certain kinds. Seniors are most likely to contract pneumonia due to bacteria or viruses, especially from the streptococcus bacteria. Streptococcus pneumonia is known to come on suddenly, which can make diagnosis difficult, given the similarity between many pneumonia symptoms and flu symptoms. This strain is also especially dangerous because it can cause meningitis in the brain, or bacteremia, which is the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream.
Seniors are more likely to contract pneumonia due to their weakened immune systems and higher likelihood of comorbidities, like heart issues. Seniors who have had strokes are also at higher risk for contracting pneumonia because stroke survivors often have a difficult time coughing. Coughing is our body’s primary mechanism for expelling infection-causing viruses and bacteria from the lungs, so those who can’t produce a strong cough are missing that defense.
If left untreated
About 50,000 people die each year from pneumonia. Pneumonia is very treatable if caught early, so it’s essential to seek treatment for signs and symptoms as soon as they appear, even if they seem to be flu symptoms. Seniors who recover from pneumonia don’t always get off scot-free, either; a number of long-term complications can develop as a result of the infection, like cognitive decline and cardiovascular disease, to name a few. Untreated pneumonia symptoms can also lead to:
- Bacteria entering the bloodstream. This can lead to infection in other organs, causing a whole host of problems.
- Pleural effusion. Fluid can build up in between layers of pleura, often necessitating surgery.
- Difficulty breathing. For seniors with pulmonary conditions like COPD, this is especially dangerous, and can lead to hospitalization.
Don’t let pneumonia go untreated, especially in the elderly. Request in-home care from DispatchHealth. We accept most major insurances, including Medicare and Medicaid, and our care costs a fraction of what a visit to the emergency room (ER) would. Contact us via our app, a phone call, or online.