How To Treat Pneumonia In Seniors
Pneumonia can often be treated at home. The goal is to rid your body of the infection while preventing more serious complications. Pneumonia affects the lungs and breathing. This makes it vital to ensure that the body is getting the oxygen it needs to recover. Following these steps can help to manage the symptoms of fever and cough so that your loved one can recover more quickly:
Recovery from pneumonia can take anywhere from a week to months. You will need to talk to your doctor about when it is appropriate to return to a normal routine.
An early response to the signs of pneumonia can be your best strategy for a smooth recovery.
What Other Treatments May Be Recommended
Additional treatments that may be used for pneumonia include:
- Fluids. Its important to make sure that you have adequate fluid intake when youre sick with pneumonia. If youre hospitalized, you may receive fluids by IV.
- Oxygen therapy. If youre hospitalized with pneumonia, oxygen therapy may be used to make sure that youre receiving enough oxygen.
- Rest. Getting plenty of rest can help your body respond to the infection. If you must perform daily activities, try not to overdo it and dont hesitate to ask for help, if necessary.
- Use heat and humidity. Drinking warm beverages or broths and using a humidifier may help to loosen mucus in your throat and chest.
- Over-the-counter medications. These can help ease symptoms like fever and discomfort. Examples include things like acetaminophen , ibuprofen , and naproxen .
with an increased risk of hospitalization and mortality when compared to other age groups. Symptoms can also be atypical and can quickly worsen.
Because of this, seeking prompt medical attention is essential in promoting a positive outlook.
The recovery period for pneumonia can vary based on the severity of your illness. Its possible that your symptoms may get better after a period of days or weeks.
However, in some people, the recovery period may be longer.
In order to improve outcome, its important that older adults whove had pneumonia pay close attention to the following during their recovery period:
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How Long Do They Last
While walking pneumonia is usually milder than pneumonia, it involves a longer recovery period. It can take about six weeks to fully recover from walking pneumonia. However, most people recover from pneumonia in about a week. Bacterial pneumonia usually starts to improve shortly after starting antibiotics, while viral pneumonia usually starts to improve after about three days.
If you have a weakened immune system or a severe case of pneumonia, the recovery period might be longer.
THE MAIN DIFFERENCE:
While walking pneumonia is milder than pneumonia, it requires a longer recovery period. It can last for up to six weeks, while pneumonia symptoms usually start to improve within a couple of days.
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Causes Of Walking Pneumonia
Walking pneumonia can be caused by viruses or bacteria. According to the American Lung Association, most cases are caused by M. pneumoniae, a common type of bacteria that usually affects children and adults under the age of 40. M. pneumoniae infections tend to peak in summer and early fall but can happen throughout the year.
Chlamydophila pneumoniae can also cause walking pneumonia. Infections from this type of bacteria are common in all four seasons. It often spreads in crowded environments, like college dorms and long-term care facilities.
Adults and children can also contract walking pneumonia from viruses. Respiratory syncytial virus is a frequent cause of walking pneumonia in young kids, while adults tend to get the viral form of the disease from the influenza virus.
How Do You Catch Walking Pneumonia
Walking pneumonia is often caused by bacteria or viruses. Most commonly a bacteria called mycoplasma pneumoniae is responsible for the infection. The infection is often caused by inhaling airborne droplets of water that are contaminated with the bacteria or virus when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These bacteria and viruses then infect your nose, throat, windpipe and lungs.
Thats why children and younger adults develop it most often the infection spreads easily in crowded environments like schools and college dormitories. But walking pneumonia can also hit nursing homes.
Youll usually start feeling symptoms within two weeks of exposure, but the bacteria can incubate for up to a month and youre contagious during that incubation period. Over about four days, the symptoms gradually worsen and include:
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Side Effects Of Antibiotics
Most antibiotics have the following side effects :
- Allergic reactions . These reactions can range from mild skin rashes to rare but severe — even life threatening — anaphylactic shock.
- Infection with Clostridium difficile, the bacteria responsible for causing severe diarrhea, inflammation of the colon , and abdominal pain. This condition can be fatal.
- Interactions with certain drugs, including some over-the-counter medications and supplements. People should inform their doctors of all medications and OTC preparations they are taking, as well as any drug allergies they might have.
- Stomach problems .
- Vaginal infections. Taking Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements or eating yogurt with active acidophilus cultures may help restore healthy bacteria that reduce the risk for such infections. There is no strong evidence that this helps prevent yeast infections.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- I have a chronic condition. Am I at higher risk for pneumonia?
- Do I have bacterial, viral, or fungal pneumonia? Whats the best treatment?
- Am I contagious?
- How serious is my pneumonia? Will I need to be hospitalized?
- What can I do at home to help relieve my symptoms?
- What are the possible complications of pneumonia? How will I know if Im developing complications?
- What should I do if my symptoms dont respond to treatment or get worse?
- Do we need to schedule a follow-up exam?
- Do I need any vaccines?
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Walking Pneumonia In Children
Pneumonia is a serious and potentially life-threatening lung infection. A germ called Mycoplasma pneumoniae is often responsible for a milder type of pneumonia called “walking pneumonia.” Its victims may feel unusually tired and run down, but they may not realize they have pneumonia and continue about their business.
When Should I See My Doctor
Pneumonia can be life-threatening if left untreated, especially for certain at-risk people. You should call your doctor if you have a cough that wont go away, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a fever. You should also call your doctor if you suddenly begin to feel worse after having a cold or the flu.
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Is There A Vaccine For Pneumonia
There isnt a vaccine for all types of pneumonia, but 2 vaccines are available. These help prevent pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria. The first is recommended for all children younger than 5 years of age. The second is recommended for anyone age 2 or older who is at increased risk for pneumonia. Getting the pneumonia vaccine is especially important if you:
- Are 65 years of age or older.
- Have certain chronic conditions, such as asthma, lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, sickle cell disease, or cirrhosis.
- Have a weakened immune system because of HIV/AIDS, kidney failure, a damaged or removed spleen, a recent organ transplant, or receiving chemotherapy.
- Have cochlear implants .
The pneumococcal vaccines cant prevent all cases of pneumonia. But they can make it less likely that people who are at risk will experience the severe, and possibly life-threatening, complications of pneumonia.
How Is Pneumonia Diagnosed
Pneumonia can sometimes be hard to diagnose because the symptoms are the same as for a bad cold or flu. If you think it could be pneumonia, you should see your doctor. Your doctor may diagnose pneumonia based on your medical history and the results from a physical exam. He or she will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. Your doctor may also do some tests, such as a chest X-ray or a blood test. A chest X-ray can show your doctor if you have pneumonia and how widespread the infection is. Blood and mucus tests can help your doctor tell whether bacteria, a virus, or a fungal organism is causing your pneumonia.
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How Is Walking Pneumonia Different
Walking pneumonia, also known as atypical pneumonia, is caused by mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria. It usually causes cold-like symptoms, in addition to a fever and a hacking cough. It is most common in school-aged children and young adults, says Annette Cameron, MD, a Yale Medicine pediatrician.
Because this type of pneumonia typically causes milder symptoms, it may go undiagnosed for a while, especially if the child is able to participate in normal activities and isnt as visibly sick as he or she would be with other forms of pneumonia. And thats why its called walking pneumonia, Dr. Cameron says. It might just be a little bit of malaise. Sometimes you can have community-acquired, or bacterial pneumonia, along with walking pneumonia, in which case we would just treat both of them.
When To Contact A Medical Professional
- Cough that brings up bloody or rust-colored mucus
- Breathing symptoms that get worse
- Chest pain that gets worse when you cough or breathe in
- Fast or painful breathing
- Night sweats or unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath, shaking chills, or persistent fevers
- Signs of pneumonia and a weak immune system
- Worsening of symptoms after initial improvement
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You Should Call Your Doctor If You Have These Symptoms
It may be hard to tell if you have pneumonia just from how you feel, but there are things to look out for.
According to Ward, symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Cough, which can include mucus or phlegm
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain, especially when breathing or coughing
To monitor your symptoms, I recommend keeping a working thermometer and a blood oxygen reader, called a pulse oximeter, at home, she says.
If you have any of the following symptoms, Ward recommends seeking medical attention:
- A fever above 102Â°F, even after taking fever-lowering medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Blood oxygen level lower than 95%
- Coughing up blood or sputum that contains blood
She adds that people whose immune systems are compromised should contact their doctor if they think they are having pneumonia symptoms.
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How Is Walking Pneumonia Treated
Walking pneumonia is usually mild, does not require hospitalization and is treated with antibiotics . Several types of antibiotics are effective. Antibiotics that are used to treat walking pneumonia caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae include:
- Macrolide antibiotics: Macrolide drugs are the preferred treatment for children and adults. Macrolides include azithromycin and clarithromycin . Over the past decade, some strains of Mycoplasma pneumoniae have become resistant to macrolide antibiotics, possibly due to the widespread use of azithromycin to treat various illnesses.
- Fluoroquinolones: These drugs include ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin . Fluoroquinolones are not recommended for young children.
- Tetracyclines: This group includes doxycycline and tetracycline. They are suitable for adults and older children.
Often, over-the-counter medications can also be taken to help relieve symptoms of nasal congestion, cough and loosen mucus buildup in the chest. If you have a fever:
- Drink more fluids
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What Are The Symptoms Of Walking Pneumonia
Symptoms from walking pneumonia are usually pretty mild. In fact, most people have so few symptoms that they dont ever see a healthcare provider. This may mean that theyre never diagnosed with walking pneumonia at all.
Typically, people with walking pneumonia start off having symptoms very similar to a common cold or viral upper respiratory tract infection. These symptoms include:
How Is Pneumonia Treated
Treatment depends on the type of pneumonia you have. Most of the time, pneumonia is treated at home, but severe cases may be treated in the hospital. Antibiotics are used for bacterial pneumonia. Antibiotics may also speed recovery from mycoplasma pneumonia and some special cases. Most viral pneumonias dont have specific treatment. They usually get better on their own.
Other treatment may include eating well, increasing fluid intake, getting rest, oxygen therapy, pain medicine, fever control, and maybe cough-relief medicine if cough is severe.
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How Are They Treated
Many cases of walking pneumonia dont require treatment. To help your body heal, its best to rest as much as possible and stay hydrated. If you have a fever, you can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You can also ask your doctor about taking an antibiotic.
Pneumonia and more serious cases of walking pneumonia may need additional treatment, such as:
- oxygen to assist with breathing
- intravenous fluids
- breathing treatments to help loosen the mucus in your airways
- corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
THE MAIN DIFFERENCE:
Walking pneumonia often doesnt require treatment, though some cases may need antibiotics. Pneumonia may require additional treatment to improve breathing and reduce inflammation in your airways.
Choosing The Right Antibiotic
Dozens of antibiotics are available for treating pneumonia, but selecting the best drug is sometimes difficult. People with pneumonia need an antibiotic that is effective against the organism causing the disease. When the organism is unknown, “empiric therapy” is given, meaning the doctor chooses which antibiotic is likely to work based on factors such as the person’s age, health, and severity of the illness.
In adults, the choice of antibiotic therapy depends on the severity of infection and site of care. In all cases, the more quickly antibiotic therapy is started once the diagnosis is made, the better the outcomes. In most cases, the organism causing the pneumonia will not be known before antibiotic therapy is started, so the doctor must choose an antibiotic regimen based on history and symptoms. Later, the therapy may be altered when more information becomes available. To determine the appropriate antibiotic, the doctor must first answer a number of questions:
Once an antibiotic has been chosen, there are still difficulties:
- Individuals respond differently to the same antibiotic, depending on their age, health, size, and other factors.
- People can be allergic to certain antibiotics, thus requiring alternatives.
- People may have strains of bacteria that are resistant to certain antibiotics.
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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.
When Should You Call Your Doctor
The faster you get treatment, the faster you will get over pneumonia. This is especially true for the very young, for people older than 65, and for anyone with other long-lasting health problems, such as asthma.
911 or other emergency services immediately if you:
- Have chest pain that is crushing or squeezing, is increasing in intensity, or occurs with any other symptoms of a heart attack.
- Have such bad trouble breathing that you are worried you will not have the strength or ability to keep breathing.
- Cough up large amounts of blood.
- Feel that you may faint when you sit up or stand.
if you have:
- A cough that produces blood-tinged or rust-coloured mucus from the lungs.
- A fever with shaking chills.
- Difficult, shallow, fast breathing with shortness of breath or wheezing.
- Frequently brings up yellow or green mucus from the lungs and lasts longer than 2 days. Do not confuse mucus from your lungs with mucus running down the back of your throat from your nasal passages . Post-nasal drainage is not a worry.
- Occurs with a fever of 38.3ÃÂ°C or higher and brings up yellow or green mucus from the lungs .
- Causes you to vomit a lot.
- Continues longer than 4 weeks.
Also call your doctor if you have new chest pain that gets worse with deep breathing and if you have other symptoms of pneumonia, such as shortness of breath, cough, and fever.
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How Can I Help My Child Feel Better
Your child should drink fluids throughout the day, especially if he or she has a fever. Ask the doctor before you use a medicine to treat a cough. Cough suppressants stop the lungs from clearing mucus, which might not be helpful for lung infections like walking pneumonia.
If your child has chest pain, try placing a heating pad or warm compress on the area. Take your child’s temperature at least once each morning and each evening. Call the doctor if it goes above 102°F in an older infant or child, or above 100.4°F in an infant under 6 months of age.
With treatment, most types of bacterial pneumonia go away within 1 to 2 weeks. Coughing can take up to 4 to 6 weeks to stop.