March 02, 2018
By Stacey Boyd, MSN, RN Director of Nursing, Welbrook at Bloomington
According to the American Lung Association, each year there are over a million hospitalizations and more than 50,000 deaths that occur from pneumonia. Education of prevention and early detection of pneumonia are important to reduce these statistics.
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection that affects your lungs and is caused by a bacteria, virus, or fungi. The infection may only affect one lung or in some cases, both lungs. The infection causes inflammation in your lungs, can cause a build-up of fluids and is easily passed to others through touch, coughing, sneezing, and even breathing. Most healthy people can recover from pneumonia in one to three weeks while those with chronic health conditions — such as asthma or COPD — are at higher risk of complications. As we age, our immune system naturally weakens, thus the older you are, the higher risk you are for contracting pneumonia.
Preventing and limiting your risk for infection
There are many methods that you can implement in efforts to decrease your chances of acquiring pneumonia:
Signs and symptoms of pneumonia
- Vaccinations — It is important to stay up to date on your vaccines. The two important vaccines to consider receiving are the influenza vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine. If you receive a flu shot every year, this can help prevent pneumonia in view that the flu is a cause of pneumonia. The pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for those over the age of 65 or if you have a chronic illness. This vaccine will reduce your chances of becoming ill.
- Hand hygiene — It is critical to maintain constant hand hygiene to eliminate germs that could possibly lead to pneumonia. Always wash your hands after using the restroom, before eating, and after sneezing or blowing your nose.
- Quit smoking — Smoking is bad for many aspects of your health, especially for your lungs. Smoking reduces your ability to fight off infection and if you smoke you are at increased risk for contracting pneumonia.
- Healthy habits — There are many habits you can perform to keep yourself healthy: maintain a balanced diet, receive sufficient sleep each night, and exercise regularly.
Symptoms of pneumonia include fever, wheezing, cough, chills, rapid breathing, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, fatigue, or weakness. If you develop difficulty breathing or chest pain, go to the emergency room for evaluation.
How is pneumonia diagnosed?
If you are having any of the symptoms mentioned above, you may want to contact your physician for a check-up. Pneumonia can be diagnosed from physician exam mainly by listening to your lungs. If you have pneumonia, often your lungs sound crackly, wheezy, or even diminished. Your doctor can also order a chest x-ray to receive a picture of the lungs to determine if infection is present. Blood tests can be completed to evaluate your white cell count. If levels are elevated, it may indicate there is an infection in your body. They may also use a pulse oximetry to check the amount of oxygen that is in your blood and ensure you are receiving sufficient oxygen.
If diagnosed with pneumonia, it is necessary to receive plenty of rest and drink adequate amounts of fluids. If you contract a fever, your physician may want you to take acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or an NSAID (e.g. aspirin, Advil). In some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic for the infection — take this as directed. Some people may be required to receive oxygen temporarily or even inhalers and nebulizers while the infection is being treated.
Welbrook at Bloomington is a new, state-of-the-art senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, and memory care. “Living Life Well” at Welbrook means having the support, care and compassion to continue a lifestyle with just a change of location. Welbrook at Bloomington is located at 1402 Leslie Drive, Bloomington. For additional information, contact Allison Fisher, Community Relations Director at 309-603-2500, or visit WelbrookBloomington.com.
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