nurse dressing woundMany people say the “golden years” are the best ones of our lives but aging does have its downsides. One unfortunate reality is that our bodies become more susceptible to infection, due to a weakened immune system.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, infectious diseases account for one-third of all deaths in people 65 and older. For yourself or an aging loved one, learn about four of the most common infections affecting seniors and ways to help prevent them.

1. Bacterial Pneumonia

Bacteria pneumonia typically occurs in elderly people with weakened immune systems or poor nutrition habits. This infection is usually caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, which can find its way into the lungs, causing labored breathing and coughing.

Depending on the severity, bacterial pneumonia can require intense care. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, symptoms include bluish lips and fingernails, confusion, a cough that produces mucus, fever, sweating, rapid pulse, chills, fatigue and loss of appetite.

There are a few ways seniors can prevent this type of infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend all older adults receive two pneumococcal vaccines to help prevent bacterial pneumonia. It’s also important to consistently practice good hygiene and avoid anyone who may be sick.

2. Urinary Tract Infections

Although UTIs can occur at any age, this infection is very common among seniors. As we age, the bladder muscles tend to weaken and cause urine to remain in the urinary tract. In addition to the frequent need to urinate, a UTI can cause pain when passing urine as well as in the abdomen and lower back.

Without seeking immediate treatment, it can lead to more serious issues like kidney damage or disease. To prevent a UTI, seniors should urinate as soon as the feeling occurs. If an older adult is wearing diapers, a caretaker should check them at least once every two hours.

3. Elderly Influenza

Seniors are at much higher risk for the flu and its related complications, which may involve hospitalization. Symptoms include fever, sunny nose, body aches, chills and sore throat.
Once this infection is contracted, a senior’s risk of heart attack and stoke increases.

According to the National Institute on Aging, the most effective way for seniors to prevent this viral infection is to get a flu vaccine each year. Similar to other infections, seniors can try and stay healthy with consistent hand washing, staying home when sick and avoiding contact with anyone who’s feeling ill.

4. Skin Infections

The skin also changes when we age. Thinning skin puts seniors at higher risk of developing shingles, fungal infections and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Symptoms may include rough, dry or cracked skin, rashes, pain, itching, sores and blisters.

Skin infections can be prevented. It’s important for seniors to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including proper nutrition and exercise to promote good blood circulation and immunity.

When you experience a scrape or cut, it’s crucial to wash and keep it clean until fully healed to prevent any bacteria from entering the wound. At Avon Health Center, we also have a podiatry specialist who can see patients at our facility!
If you or a loved one needs medical or nursing services, contact the experts at Avon Health Center today.