Pneumonia in older adults

The condition of pneumonia is the inflammation of the tissue in the lungs. It typically occurs because of an infection. Pneumonia in people aged 65 or older can become a serious problem due to higher risk of developing complications. According to the American Lung Association(ALA) older adults have a higher chance of developing some serious illness which is related to pneumonia. It is because the immune system deteriorates and loses it’s capacity to ably fight the disease. The illness can suddenly develop in 1 or 2 days slowly over a period of time.


The typical symptoms of pneumonia include:-

1.A cough which may be dry or produce phlegm.

2.Breathing difficulties.


4.Chest pain.

These symptoms are unclear in older adults who may present fewer and milder symptoms and a lower than normal temperature.

The symptoms of pneumonia in older adults may include:-

  1. Poor coordination of senses.
  2. Sudden change in day-to-day functioning.
  3. Reduced appetite.
  4. Incontinence.
  5. Confusion.
  6. Delirium.

Bacterial Pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia is the most common form of pneumonia and this condition can be quite dangerous. The symptoms of this condition can develop suddenly or gradually. These symptoms include:-

1.A fever that can reach high temperatures like 105 degree Fahrenheit.


3.Increased breathing and pulse rate.

4. Bluish lips and nailbeds.


Viral Pneumonia

Viral pneumonia symptoms develop in time. For starters a person may experience:-


2.Dry cough


4.Muscle pain

5.Muscle weakness

After a day or two the symptoms worsen and a person may experience the following symptoms:-

1.Increased coughing

2.Shortness of breath

3.Muscle pain

4.High fever

5.Blue lips

Pneumonia can become a serious issue quite fast for older adults. On suspicion of having pneumonia in anyone medical advice must be sought for as soon as possible. If the symptoms are severe and do not improve an older adult should go to the hospital and contact emergency services if there are these symptoms:-

1.Breathing difficulties

2.A blue face or lips

3.Coughing up blood

4.Chest pain

5.A high fever

6.Severe cough with mucus

7.Sweating and feeling cold, with paler, discolored or blotchy skin

8.Fainting or collapsing

9.Drowsiness or confusion

10.A rash that does not fade


In most of the cases people with pneumonia can treat the symptoms by:-

1.Taking aspirin to reduce the fever

2.Drink plenty of fluids both warm and cold

3.Using a humidifier or take a hot bath

4.Avoiding smoking and second-hand smoke

5.Getting plenty of rest

A person should not take cough medicine without the doctor’s recommendation. If the cause of the pneumonia is bacterial a doctor will be prescribed antibiotics. The patient must complete the whole course of antibiotics even if their condition improves as stopping the medication midway can trigger the infection again. If an older adult needs hospitalization due to pneumonia they may need oxygen therapy and intravenous (IV) drip to receive fluids.


Recovery of pneumonia in older adults can be a long process. Some people recover in 6 weeks but it can take 12 weeks also for others to recover. It is important to rest for as long as possible during recovery.


There is no sure way to prevent pneumonia. But people can help to reduce the occurrence of pneumonia by following these habits:-

Hand Hygiene-A person should wash their hands regularly to remove any germs.

Quit Smoking-It has been found that there is a strong connection between people smoking tobacco and the development of pneumonia. The people who smoke are at a higher risk of this condition than others.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) state that a person over the age of 65 has the option of two vaccines:-1.Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine(PPSV23)

2.Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine(PCV13)

According to CDC all adults aged 65 or above get the PPSV223 shot.

The PCV13 shot is appropriate for people above 65 or older who have a cochlear implant, a cerebrospinal fluid leak and conditions that weaken the immune system. People can get both shots at the same time. If a doctor or healthcare professional recommends taking both the shots then the PCV13 shot first. And then the doctor can advise when to get the second shot.


At times, older adults can develop pneumonia after a stay in the hospital. Then this case may be referred to as community-acquired pneumonia.The causes of pneumonia are-

1.Bacteria-Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common type of bacterial pneumonia. It can develop after a person has a viral cold or flu.

2.Viruses-The influenza virus is a common cause of viral pneumonia. The virus enters the lungs and multiplies.

3.Fungi-Fungal pneumonia occurs when people expose themselves to fungi from bird droppings or contaminated soil.


The risk factors of pneumonia include :-


2.Occurrence of stroke in the past

3.Neurological disorders like dementia, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease

4.Dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing

5.History of respiratory disease



8.Chronic liver disease


The older adults have a higher chance of developing complications from pneumonia. Some of the examples are-

1.Pleurisy-A condition where the pleura becomes inflamed. The pleura are the two large layers of tissue that separate the lungs from the chest wall. Pleurisy can cause respiratory failures.

2.Lung abscess-In this condition the tissue on the lung dies and pus develops in the resulting space. It is a rare complication and may occur in people who take alcohol in uncontrolled measures or some other pre-existing illness.

3.Sepsis-It is an infection of lungs which in relation to pneumonia may trigger a potentially life threatening immune response in other parts of the body.

4.Acute respiratory distress syndrome(ARDS)-It is a severe form of respiratory failure.


Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs that may occur due to viral, bacterial or fungal infections. The older adults have a higher chance of developing complications of severe pneumonia. The early start of the treatment increases the chances of recovery and reduces the risk of complications.

Published by ambikajha

I am Ambika Jha.I like to write on different topics.I feel life is too short for anything.So let us work our best in the given time and let life's music be in rhythm and rhyme.So be your best and never stop to learn and write.

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