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Stages Of Pneumonia In Seniors
Anyone can get pneumonia with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Seniors may be more likely to get pneumonia and experience serious complications. Due to these higher risks, senior care providers need to recognize early pneumonia symptoms in seniors.
They also should understand the four stages of pneumonia so they can seek prompt treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.
What Are The 4 Stages Of Pneumonia
An estimated one million older adults in the United States are diagnosed and hospitalized due to pneumonia each year. Even when we take precautions to protect and strengthen our immune systems, we can become more susceptible to pneumonia as we age. Whether you are an older adult yourself or are the caretaker of one, pneumonia can be a scary experience.
Thats why being aware of the tell-tale signs of pneumonia, often referred to as the four stages of pneumonia, can help save a life. The sooner you recognize the stages in yourself or in a loved one, the sooner you can seek medical treatment and begin recovery. This article will walk you through each stage and how to recognize it.
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Things You Should Know About Pneumonia
- By Stephanie Watson, Executive Editor, Harvard Women’s Health Watch
Pneumonia is an infection that causes the air sacs in the lungs to fill up with fluid or pus, which makes it harder to breathe. The most common symptoms are cough that may be dry or produce phlegm, fever, chills and fatigue. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and pain in the chest. and shortness of breath. Signs that indicate a more severe infection are shortness of breath, confusion, decreased urination and lightheadedness. In the U.S., pneumonia accounts for 1.3 visits to the Emergency Department, and 50,000 deaths annually.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to affect people around the world, pneumonia has become an even larger health concern. Some people infected with the COVID-19 have no symptoms, while others may experience fever, body ache, dry cough, fatigue, chills, headache, sore throat, loss of appetite, and loss of smell.
The more severe symptoms of COV-19, such as high fever, severe cough, and shortness of breath, usually mean significant lung involvement. The lungs can be damaged by overwhelming COVID-19 viral infection, severe inflammation, and/or a secondary bacterial pneumonia. COVID-19 can lead to long lasting lung damage.
Here are other important facts you should know about pneumonia:,
What Tests Are Used To Diagnose Pneumonia
Your child’s doctor may order a to diagnose pneumonia. The cause of some types of pneumonia can be determined by culturing the bacteria taken from the mucus an ill child produces from coughing. This helps doctors determine what types of treatments will work best. Some viral pneumonias can be diagnosed by testing nasal secretions.
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Early Signs Of Pneumonia
The early signs of pneumonia vary from mild to severe such as fever, nausea, vomiting,dry or cough with mucus, difficulty in breathing, chest pains, unusual weakness etc
Early Signs of Pneumonia
Pneumonia in general terms is an infection caused by a variety of microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites either in one or both the lungs. Often, the infection of pneumonia begins after it first affects the nose and throat also known as the upper respiratory tract. This results in collection of fluids in the lungs which makes the breathing process difficult.
Symptoms of pneumonia irrespective of the cause usually come in suddenly in, otherwise healthy people, who are below the age of 65. The signs of pneumonia often start developing initially with a viral infection such as a cold or flu. The early signs of pneumonia in adults can vary from, Mild, Moderate to severe depending on the cause. If the early signs of Pneumonia are ignored, it may prove to be fatal or dangerous.
A bacterial pneumonia on the other hand usually develops more quickly and show obvious symptoms such as cough with green or little blood in mucus, fever, episodes of shivering, difficulty in breathing, sharp pain in the chest walls etc. An infected person may also feel rapid increase in heartbeat, unusual weakness and tiredness, nausea, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea.
End Of Life Care Pneumonia
Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs that affects alveoli and consolidation . Pneumonia is a common disease that will seriously affect the morbidity and mortality of the elderly. Pneumonia is usually a terminal event that complicates long-term conditions . Anyone can get pneumonia, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Older people may be more susceptible to pneumonia and encountering serious complications. Because of these higher risks, caregivers need to recognize the early symptoms of pneumonia in the elderly.
Elderly patients will have some clinical problems, which must be considered when deciding the best care environment: delirium, hypoxic respiratory failure and severe sepsis. The assessment of the severity of the disease helps determine the best care environment. Patients with dementia often get pneumonia and often die from pneumonia, which is associated with high levels of discomfort.
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Complications That Can Arise From Pneumonia
The reason that pneumonia is so dangerous for the elderly is that there is a high risk of developing complications. The elderly may develop bacteremia, an infection that can infect the organs of the body. The membrane that covers the lung can become inflamed and then infected. An abscess can develop on the lung in the infected area.
In the most severe cases, respiratory failure can occur. This may require that you loved one uses a ventilator and supplemental oxygen. If this happens, hopefully, your loved one will already have already completed a living will or durable power of attorney.
What Health Complications Can Pneumonia Lead To
If you have flu-like symptoms that persist or worsen despite treatment, talk to your doctor.
Your doctor can monitor your lungs while you inhale, listening for crackling sounds that are audible only with a stethoscope.
In order to confirm the diagnosis and identify the specific germ causing the illness, you may get a chest X-ray as well as a blood test, depending on your medical history and physical exam, if your doctor suspects that you have pneumonia.
If left untreated, pneumonia can become severe.
People with severe pneumonia experience higher fevers along with GI symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea, as well as:
- Difficulty breathing
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What Are The Symptoms Of Pneumonia In Adults
The symptoms of pneumonia in adults are ambiguous and depend on the exact microorganism bacterum, virus, fungi or mycoplasma that is causing the disease. Symptoms of pneumonia in adults can mimic those of the influenza virus or even the common cold. Some of the most common symptoms of pneumonia in adults include fever, chills, coughing, chest pain, headaches, muscle pain and feeling abnormally tired or over-exerted. Pneumonia can be a life-threatening illness, so anyone who suspects that he or she has contracted pneumonia should speak to a licensed medical care provider immediately.
In elderly adults, the symptoms of pneumonia might, paradoxically, be less severe. This does not indicate that the disease itself is any less severe. Immune-compromised adults might also experience milder signs of pneumonia. The symptoms of pneumonia in children tend to be more intense than those in adults.
Is Pneumonia Treated Any Differently In Children
Essentially no. Just like adults, bacterial causes of pneumonia in children may be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are not used to treat pneumonia caused by viruses. Flu-related pneumonia may be treated with antiviral medicine if caught early in the course of illness. Most cases of pneumonia are treated with comfort care measures that ease symptoms. These may include:
- Drinking more fluids.
- Getting more rest.
- Taking over-the-counter medicines for cough and acetaminophen for fever. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns about giving medicines to your child.
- Using a cool mist humidifier in your childs room.
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Are Vaccines Available To Prevent Pneumonia
Yes, there are two types of vaccines specifically approved to prevent pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria. Similar to a flu shot, these vaccines wont protect against all types of pneumonia, but if you do come down with pneumonia, its less likely to be as severe or potentially life-threatening especially for people who are at increased risk for pneumonia.
- Bacterial pneumonia: Two pneumonia vaccines, Pneumovax23® and Prevnar13®, protect against the most common causes of bacterial pneumonia.
- Pneumovax23® protects against 23 different types of pneumococcal bacteria. It is recommended for all adults 65 years of age and older and children over 2 years of age who are at increased risk for pneumonia.
- Prevnar13® protects against 13 types of pneumonia bacteria. It is recommended for all adults 65 years of age and older and children under 2 years of age. Ask your healthcare provider about these vaccines.
If you have children, ask their doctor about other vaccines they should get. Several childhood vaccines help prevent infections caused by the bacteria and viruses that can lead to pneumonia.
How Is Pneumonia Treated
When you get a pneumonia diagnosis, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan. Treatment for pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia you have, how sick you are feeling, your age, and whether you have other health conditions. The goals of treatment are to cure the infection and prevent complications. It is important to follow your treatment plan carefully until you are fully recovered.
Take any medications as prescribed by your doctor. If your pneumonia is caused by bacteria, you will be given an antibiotic. It is important to take all the antibiotic until it is gone, even though you will probably start to feel better in a couple of days. If you stop, you risk having the infection come back, and you increase the chances that the germs will be resistant to treatment in the future.
Typical antibiotics do not work against viruses. If you have viral pneumonia, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to treat it. Sometimes, though, symptom management and rest are all that is needed.
Most people can manage their symptoms such as fever and cough at home by following these steps:
If your pneumonia is so severe that you are treated in the hospital, you may be given intravenous fluids and antibiotics, as well as oxygen therapy, and possibly other breathing treatments.
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Is Pneumonia Curable
A variety of infectious agents cause pneumonia. With proper recognition and treatment, many cases of pneumonia can be cleared without complications.
For bacterial infections, stopping your antibiotics early can cause the infection to not clear completely. This means your pneumonia could come back.
Stopping antibiotics early can also contribute to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic-resistant infections are more difficult to treat.
Viral pneumonia often resolves in 1 to 3 weeks with at-home treatment. In some cases, you may need antivirals.
Antifungal medications treat fungal pneumonia. It may require a longer period of treatment.
Who Is At Risk
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can sometimes cause severe or life-threatening illness and even death. If left untreated, the infection can quickly get worse and life-threatening. If you or your loved one has symptoms of pneumonia, it is important to see a doctor, especially if you have certain risk factors. Early diagnosis is the key and can lead to better results.
Pneumonia can affect anyone. But some people have an increased risk of serious or life-threatening infections. Generally speaking, those at greatest risk have weaker immune systems or have diseases or lifestyle factors that affect the lungs. People at increased risk of severe or life-threatening cases of pneumonia include:
- Adults 65 years and older
- People in hospital, especially if they are placed on a ventilator
- Individuals with chronic diseases or conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes
- People with weakened immune systems due to chronic diseases, chemotherapy or organ transplants
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Questions About Your Symptoms
Bacterial pneumonia, which is the most common form, tends to be more serious than other types of pneumonia, with symptoms that require medical care. The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia can develop gradually or suddenly. Fever may rise as high as a dangerous 105 degrees F, with profuse sweating and rapidly increased breathing and pulse rate. Lips and nailbeds may have a bluish color due to lack of oxygen in the blood. A patient’s mental state may be confused or delirious.
The symptoms of viral pneumonia usually develop over a period of several days. Early symptoms are similar to influenza symptoms: fever, a dry cough, headache, muscle pain, and weakness. Within a day or two, the symptoms typically get worse, with increasing cough, shortness of breath and muscle pain. There may be a high fever and there may be blueness of the lips.
Symptoms may vary in certain populations. Newborns and infants may not show any signs of the infection. Or, they may vomit, have a fever and cough, or appear restless, sick, or tired and without energy. Older adults and people who have serious illnesses or weak immune systems may have fewer and milder symptoms. They may even have a lower than normal temperature. Older adults who have pneumonia sometimes have sudden changes in mental awareness. For individuals that already have a chronic lung disease, those symptoms may worsen.
When to call a doctor
How To Diagnose Pneumonia
- First diagnosis of pneumonia is done through clinical examination. Your physician would do auscultation through stethoscope. Whistling sound during every breath is suggestive for lung congestion.
- Blood examination: There would be an increase in white blood cells and E.S.R level.
- Sputum examination.
- Chest X Ray.
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Symptoms Of Atypical Pneumonia
Atypical pneumonia is most commonly caused by mycoplasma, chlamydia, or a virus. It usually appears in children and young adults. Symptoms are usually mild and often go undiagnosed and untreated. Legionnaire disease, however, is a severe form of atypical pneumonia that usually strikes adults and seniors.
The disease progresses gradually:
- General flu-like symptoms often occur first. They may include fatigue, fever, weakness, headache, nasal discharge, sore throat, earache, and stomach and intestinal distress.
- Vague pain under and around the breastbone may occur, but the severe chest pain associated with typical bacterial pneumonia is uncommon.
- People may have a severe hacking cough, but it usually does not produce sputum.
Pneumonia Signs And Symptoms
You may miss the early warning signs of pneumonia. Thats because the infection typically starts with a simple cold. It can also start with upper respiratory infections such as a sore throat, nasal congestion, and cough. And here is where it makes a turn.
You will start to get a high fever and experience shaking chills, along with a cough that produces greenish or yellowish thick mucus or phlegm, which may contain blood. You may also then experience a headache and muscle aches, chest pain, and shortness of breath. It will also zap you of your energy- causing fatigue and weakness and the loss of appetite. Older people may experience confusion.
You may have also heard the phrase walking pneumonia. This milder case of pneumonia feels more like a cold and doesnt typically require bed rest or hospitalization. It is usually treated with over-the-counter medicines. It mostly impacts children 5-years-old and older.
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Pneumonia Symptoms And Causes
There are more than 30 different causes of pneumonia, including bacteria, viruses, airborne irritants, and fungi. When these germs enter the lungs, they can overpower the immune system and invade nearby lung tissues, which are very delicate.
Once infected, the air sacs in the lungs become inflamed and fill up with fluid and pus, which causes coughing, fever, chills, and breathing problems.
Occupational And Regional Pneumonias
Exposure to chemicals can also cause inflammation and pneumonia. Where you work and live can put you at higher risk for exposure to pneumonia-causing organisms.
- Workers exposed to cattle, pigs, sheep, and horses are at risk for pneumonia caused by anthrax, brucella, and Coxiella burnetii .
Inhalation or respiratory anthrax is a life-threatening infectious disease caused by inhaling the spores of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Although the spores are dormant when breathed in, they germinate when exposed to a warm, moist environment, such as the lungs. Not all particles are small enough to pass into the alveoli, or air sacs, but those that do begin to multiply and may spread to the lymphatic system. When the spores germinate, several toxins are released. Particles illustrated are not to scale.
- Agricultural and construction workers in the Southwest are at risk for coccidioidomycosis . The disease is caused by the spores of the fungi Coccidioides immitis and Coccidiodes posadasii.
- Those working in Ohio and the Mississippi Valley are at risk for histoplasmosis, a lung disease caused by the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum. This fungus grows well in areas enriched with bird or bat droppings.
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