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When cold weather arrives, pneumonia is never too far behind. Commonly mistaken for other illnesses (like the common cold or bronchitis), pneumonia can range anywhere between mild to deadly. Unfortunately, people over the age of 65 are at a much higher risk of developing complications when sick with pneumonia. Here, we go over the causes, symptoms, complications and the prevention tactics of pneumonia, along with some home treatments that can help lessen symptoms.

Causes, Symptoms and Prevention.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, which causes the lung’s air sacs to inflame or fill with fluid. Symptoms of the sickness include:

  • Coughing (dry or with excess mucus)
  • Fever
  • Chills or aches
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain when breathing or coughing
  • Shortness of breath (while exerting activities)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea   

People at a high risk of developing serious or severe cases of pneumonia include:

  • Children below the age of 2
  • Adults over the age of 65
  • People with existing health conditions (Asthma, heart disease, etc)
  • People with lowered or weakened immune systems.

In serious cases, patients may be hospitalized due to severe symptoms, complications with additional conditions, age-related issues, if they are not able to treat themselves, or if the condition persists for over two weeks.

Pneumonia should always be caught early on. It is extremely contagious, caused by either airborne germs or viruses, and can be caught simply be inhaling the virus. Though it is easily spread, keeping clean and safe habits can help protect you from contracting the sickness. Prevention tips to follow are:

  • Regularly washing your hands, especially after coming into contact with an infected person.
  • Getting the flu vaccine (viruses that spread the flu can also spread pneumonia),especially for people with chronic conditions.
  • Not smoking.
  • Keeping a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising frequently.

If you’re over 65 and you are exhibiting signs of pneumonia, visit your doctor. Most cases of pneumonia can be treated at home with fever reducers like aspirin or ibuprofen, cough medicines or suppressants, or with doctorprescribed antibiotics. For athome treatments, try:

  • Placing a warm wet washcloth over the nose and mouth to loosen mucus.
  • Using a humidifier or breathing in steam (from hot, running water in an enclosed place) to loosen mucus.
  • Drinking plenty of liquids (Water, tea, juice).
  • Getting plenty of rest.
  • Avoiding alcohol and smoking.