Did you know that pneumonia is the leading cause of hospitalization and death for seniors with chronic disease? Unfortunately this common infection, which is easily fended off by most of us, can kill others who lack defense. Pneumonia can be life threatening for those with weaker immune systems due to other chronic conditions, the very young, old, and pregnant women.
Pneumonia is inflammation of the lung, most often acquired through infection by bacteria, virus or fungi. If your body cannot clear the infection or it is prolonged, inflammation causes swelling of the lung tissue and impairs your ability to breathe.
Infection of the lungs is often through communicable infections in the community setting. Fortunately, protecting others takes little effort. Stay home when you are sick, and good practices to prevent infecting others should be employed if you have signs of illness such as coughing, fever or sore throat.
Preventing pneumonia is by avoiding infection. Coughing or sneezing in public should be into a tissue that covers your mouth and nose, which is immediately discarded into the trash. If no tissue can be used, cough or sneeze downward, by lowering your nose and mouth into your elbow, never your hands. Best practice is to wear a mask in public to prevent passing your infection to others, and avoid places of people with weakened immune systems.
If you are a senior with a chronic condition, ask your healthcare provider about getting a pneumonia vaccine. Those most vulnerable to pneumonia leading to death would be/with:
- 65 years or older
- Chronic lung disease such as COPD or cystic fibrosis
- Heart disease
- Weakened immune system due to condition or medication
- Difficulty swallowing or Increased chance of aspirating food, saliva or vomit, ex: Parkinson’s, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
At any age, if you have a chronic condition that weakens your immune system, ask about getting vaccinated against pneumonia. For seniors, pneumonia vaccines may be covered at no charge in your province.
Protect yourself from hospitalization or death due to pneumonia by getting vaccinated against Pneumonia. Pneumonia vaccines prime your immune system to respond to infection and allow recovery with lesser symptoms and may prevent hospitalization or death. Vaccination is like wearing body armor, it has to be donned before exposure to harm. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider about how to get your defenses up.