Older adults more at risk for pneumonia

Unlike a cold or the flu, which are caused by viruses, pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by bacteria and symptoms can hit you without warning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 250,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized because of pneumonia each year. Pneumococcal pneumonia, caused by a bacterial infection, kills more people in the U.S. every year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.

People 65 and older are particularly at risk because their immune system isn’t able to fight off these infections.

The signs and symptoms of pneumonia vary from mild to severe, depending on factors such as the type of germ causing the infection, and your age and overall health.

The infection inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus (purulent material), causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.

Some of the viruses that cause colds and the flu can cause pneumonia. Viral pneumonia is usually mild. But in some cases it can become very serious. COVID-19 may cause pneumonia, which can become severe.

Chronic conditions like COPD, asthma, heart disease, and diabetes may increase pneumococcal pneumonia risk, too.

In order to get the best protection against all strains of bacteria that cause pneumonia, the CDC has long recommended that everyone 65 or older receive the pneumococcal vaccine.

Studies show that getting vaccinated can help reduce your risk of illness by as much as 40 to 60 percent, helping you avoid a hospital visit — especially important this season, with the flu raging alongside the coronavirus.

See your doctor if you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, persistent fever of 102 F or higher, or persistent cough, especially if you’re coughing up pus.

Heritage Woods of Minooka, an Assisted Lifestyle Community for the Older Adult, 701 Heritage Woods Drive, Minooka, IL, 60447, 815-467-2837, www.gardant.com/heritagewoodsminooka