Individuals who get COVID-19 already experience symptoms like coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. However, they can also get severe pneumonia in their lungs. Experts are calling it COVID pneumonia, and it is more dangerous than regular pneumonia — which is already the 5th leading cause of death in the elderly. Seniors especially should take precautions to avoid the risks of getting COVID-19 or COVID pneumonia. In this post, we will outline tips to help prevent this type of pneumonia.
About COVID Pneumonia
First, let’s talk a bit more about this dangerous lung infection. It occurs as a result of COVID-19, which compromises the immune system and makes it easier for an infection to develop in the lungs. COVID pneumonia typically occurs in severe COVID cases, which account for 15% of total cases. However, seniors are at higher risk than younger adults for both COVID and COVID-related pneumonia.
Seniors with COVID pneumonia may experience the following symptoms in addition to their COVID-19 symptoms:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- Quick breathing
- Heavy sweating
- Shortness of breath
Unlike traditional pneumonia, COVID pneumonia affects both lungs. It can also cause a “ground-glass” appearance on a CT scan. Individuals with COVID pneumonia might also have abnormalities in lab tests assessing liver function. Additionally, this type of pneumonia seems to cause more inflammation in the lungs than traditional pneumonia, making it hard to breathe and get proper oxygen. It also spreads faster through the lungs and can affect a larger area. In fact, it is described as spreading like a “wildfire” in the lungs.
Because this type of pneumonia is stronger and harder to fight off, cases last longer and cause more damage to the lungs. Early studies show that up to 1/3 of patients with COVID pneumonia have scarring to their lungs a year after the infection.
Long-term lung damage could impact a senior’s ability to get enough oxygen during their remaining years. Lack of sufficient oxygen could also cause damage to the heart, kidneys, and brain over time, making it crucial for seniors to take every measure to avoid COVID-19 and COVID pneumonia.
Now, let’s dive into some tips to help seniors avoid COVID pneumonia.
Manage Underlying Health Conditions
Seniors with underlying health conditions are naturally at a higher risk for developing infections or catching illnesses. The following underlying conditions, especially, can put a senior at a higher risk for COVID pneumonia:
- Chronic lung disease (like COPD)
- Liver disease
- Heart conditions
- Chronic kidney disease
Seniors should follow their doctor’s orders to manage these types of conditions. That may include taking medications as prescribed, getting treatments, changing your diet, and more. The better you can manage chronic conditions, the lower your risk for serious complications due to COVID.
Practice Infection Control Measures
We’ve seen lots of CDC guidelines on infection control in 2020 and 2021. Follow these guidelines to help reduce your risk of getting COVID in the first place. These measures include:
- Washing your hands frequently or sanitizing them if water and soap are not available
- Social distance when possible
- Sanitize high-traffic areas in your home (faucets, door knobs, remote, etc.)
Seek Medical Treatment for COVID-19
Because COVID pneumonia is a result of COVID-19, it’s important that seniors seek medical attention as soon as possible if they suspect COVID-19. There are many pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and hospitals that offer COVID testing. You can even get some at-home test kits.
If a senior does have COVID, they should get medical treatment to help manage the condition. While they may want to remain at home, it’s best to seek professional help in case there are complications. This can help seniors reduce their chance of infections, like COVID pneumonia, and other effects of COVID.
Seniors should also get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they haven’t already. These vaccinations are free and available across the country. While the vaccines don’t completely prevent COVID-19, they can significantly reduce the severity of COVID cases and can help prevent seniors from getting pneumonia as a result of their COVID.
But there are also different pneumonia vaccines that seniors can also get. These vaccines are designed to fight the most common forms of bacteria that cause pneumonia, and they may help seniors bolster their immune system. Of course, they can also get vaccinated against other illnesses, like the flu, which can lead to pneumonia as well.
Practice Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Keeping a healthy lifestyle can help your immune system stay strong. So, if you do get COVID, you can reduce your chance of complications as your immune system fights back! Some good healthy lifestyle habits to adopt include:
- Getting enough sleep each night
- Drinking plenty of water
- Eating healthily
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid smoking
- Maintain good oral health
- Limit alcohol intake
- Find ways to ease stress
If a Loved One Gets COVID Pneumonia
Even by following all of these tips, a loved one may still get COVID pneumonia. If this happens, know that there is help available. At Caring Senior Service, we have a pneumonia-focused care plan that adapts to your loved one’s needs. This program includes training so our caregivers know to provide the best care during pneumonia recovery. It also includes care coordination with other health professionals so that everyone is on the same page regarding a senior’s care plan.
This program can help your loved one recover safely after they’re discharged from the hospital. And it can reduce your worry and give you peace of mind. Learn more about our Pneumonia Specialty Program by reaching out to a Caring location near you.