Image of elderly woman who prevented infection.Infections are a growing concern as we age, with one-third of people over the age of 65 dying from an infectious disease.

Senior citizens are more prone to infections, which occur when microbes (viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites) invade the body. This can lead to illness, disease or organ damage. We can get infections through water, air, food, and soil. Open sores on our skin also subject us to infections, because our skin serves as a barrier to microbes.

Embassy Healthcare offers the following information about infections and how you can protect yourself and older loved ones:

Infection Symptoms

Common symptoms of infections include:

  1. Coughing: The body uses coughing as a method to get the infection out of it. Coughing helps to keep the airway clear, provide more oxygen to the lungs and clean out mucous.
  2. Fatigue: Fatigue is the body’s way of suggesting you get more rest to help the immune system work more effectively.
  3. Diarrhea and vomiting: The immune system’s way of trying to get the invaders out as quickly as possible.
  4. Aches and pains: Chemicals released to assist white blood cells in battling infection can also make the body ache.
  5. Fever: Many microbes cannot survive in higher-than-normal body temperatures.

Common Infections In The Elderly

  1. Urinary tract infections (UTI): Diabetes or the use of catheters can increase the likelihood of UTIs. Symptoms include urinary incontinence or sudden changes in behavior.
  2. Pneumonia: Pneumonia is a greater risk to seniors due to decreased lung capacity and conditions such as diabetes or cardiopulmonary disease. Look for symptoms such as delirium or confusion.
  3. Skin infections: Common infections include shingles, cellulitis, and bacterial or fungal foot infections. Pay attention to itching, pain or lesions – most skin infections can be treated, while shingles can be prevented with vaccination. Practice regular hand washing, especially in senior living communities.
  4. Influenza: Weakened immune systems make the elderly particularly susceptible to influenza, which is combined with pneumonia to be the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. Annual flu shots are usually recommended for senior citizens.

Preventing Infection

The following measures can help seniors keep their immune system as healthy as possible: 

  • Proper nutrition: Reach for food full of nutrients such as vegetables; dark, leafy greens; berries; and healthy fats.
  • Keep moving: Exercise helps fight off infections, helping remove bacteria, making white blood cells move faster and reducing stress levels.
  • Don’t stress out: Learn techniques to help control stress and anxiety, which can wear the body down and open it up to infections.

For more information on services at Embassy Healthcare, call 888-975-1379 or contact us online.