Pneumonia in Elderly: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

Share this post
Share to Facebook Share to LinkedIn

Pneumonia, particularly community-acquired pneumonia, significantly impacts elderly individuals. According to the National Institutes of Health, seniors are affected more severely and frequently affected than younger populations.

Here are pneumonia symptoms you should be aware of and pneumonia treatments for the elderly.

1. What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a type of infection that affects one or both of your lungs by inflaming the air sacs. The air sacs can fill with pus (purulent material) or fluid and lead to:

  • Fever
  • Cough with pus or phlegm
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chills

Various organisms, including viruses, fungi, and bacteria can cause pneumonia. The pneumonia infection can range from being mild to life-threatening. 

It’s most severe in individuals over 65 years old and those with weakened immune systems or health problems.

2. Symptoms of Pneumonia in the Elderly

Older age leaves you more vulnerable to the infection, here’s why: 

  • If you are already suffering from a co-morbid condition, like heart disease, it’ll become harder to tolerate infection that well. 
  • Advanced age can also reduce the immune system response, making your defenses weaker.

Pneumonia symptoms can vary depending on the strain, but generally, you may experience:

  • Cough
  • Feeling weak or malaise
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Pain in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Yellow or green sputum
  • Confusion

You may think you’re simply suffering from a cold or the flu. You may feel more lethargic and sleepy, suffer from dizziness and fall and lose your appetite.

3. What Causes Pneumonia?

The main causes of pneumonia are bacteria and viruses. Pneumonia-causing germs can collect in your alveoli and multiply after you breathe them in.

The infection can be contagious. The viruses and bacteria causing pneumonia are typically inhaled which makes it easier to spread around through sneezing and coughing. 

It also spreads through shared objects being touched.

4. What is Pneumonia Treatment Elderly?

Pneumonia treatment in the elderly depends on which organism triggered the infection. Your doctor can determine this by analyzing a blood or phlegm sample.

a) Viral Pneumonia

With viral pneumonia, you might receive antiviral medication. However, they’re not commonly prescribed. Since antibiotics aren’t effective against viruses, viral pneumonia typically heals without the use of medicine provided you:

  • Eat healthy food
  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids

b) Bacterial Pneumonia

Antibiotics are usually the treatment for bacterial pneumonia. Whether you’re treated in the hospital or at home, you’re typically given a once-a-day treatment.

c) Mycoplasma and Chlamydia Pneumonia

Both these types of pneumonia require antibiotics. If you are suffering from mycoplasma pneumonia (walking pneumonia), you will likely only experience milder symptoms. However, it could still take you up to six weeks to completely heal.

d) Community-Acquired Pneumonia

This is the most common pneumonia type. It occurs outside healthcare facilities or hospitals. If you’re suffering from this type of pneumonia, you can generally receive home treatment for pneumonia with medication and possibly home care nursing.

5. Home Treatment For Pneumonia

Along with antibiotics, your doctor may recommend:

  • Cough medicine: Cough medication will help calm your cough so you can get some rest. However, since coughing does help to loosen and move the phlegm or fluid from your lungs, your doctor may not want to eliminate your cough completely.
  • Pain relievers/fever reducers: You might take these to minimize discomfort and lower fever. These include drugs like ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and aspirin.

For more serious cases, you may need an in-home nurse. With this type of pneumonia home care, the nurse ensures you’re staying compliant with all medication, eating healthy, receiving proper hydration, and getting plenty of rest.

If you suspect you’re suffering from pneumonia, don’t hesitate to seek medical care, especially if you’re over the age of 65, have a weakened immune system, or an underlying health condition.


Pneumonia can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation if you’re vulnerable to it. 

Learn more about our private home nursing services for your loved one by contacting us at (847) 641-2737 or requesting a free consultation here.

Share this post
Share to Facebook Share to LinkedIn

Related Articles