With increasing age, the immune system which safeguards the body against diseases starts weakening. A relatively weaker immune system coupled with prevailing health conditions like diabetes, hypertension often makes the elderly more susceptible to infections.
Moreover, the typical signs of infections like fever, malaise and increased white blood cell count are not as clearly visible in the elderly as in children or adults. This makes early detection and treatment quite difficult. Thus, a basic understanding of common infectious diseases is necessary in order to avert them.
Below is a list of infections which are commonly seen in seniors:
In tropical countries like India, influenza is a major health concern and is known to affect more than 30,000 people every year. Unlike, the younger patients who quickly recover without any complications, influenza can pose a risk of respiratory illnesses like pneumonia in the elderly.
In seniors, apart from the clinical symptoms like coughs, cold and headache, other symptoms like mental confusion and changes in eating habits must be identified. For prevention, a new influenza vaccine is now available in the market which can provide protection against both the strains of influenza virus.
2. Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
Conditions like diabetes mellitus, prolonged use of catheters in hospital admissions and less water intake can make the elderly quite prone to urinary tract infections(UTIs). Urinary tract infections in the elderly often present themselves with symptoms like incontinence and fatigue along with the classical features of UTIs like fever and chills. Females are more susceptible to UTIs, however, males can also encounter them due to prostatitis and cystitis. Proper hygiene and intake of a lot of fluids can help prevent UTIs.
3. Tuberculosis (TB)
Mycobacterium tuberculosis, bacteria that causes tuberculosis is believed to have infested a large section of Indian population. However, tuberculosis doesn’t manifest as long as the immune functioning remains intact. A weaker immune system in the elderly can make them quite vulnerable to tuberculosis.
Apart from lungs, TB can also affect bones, abdomen and lymph nodes. Proper ventilation of the houses along with cough etiquettes should be practiced to prevent TB in the elderly.
4. Herpes Zoster
Varicella-Zoster virus is responsible for causing herpes zoster, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Due to impaired immunity in the elderly, this virus which had remained dormant for years can be reactivated. Approach a physician as soon as you see red inflamed rashes on the spine and abdomen. Herpes Zoster can be easily treated with the administration of anti-viral drugs.
5. Gastrointestinal infections
Infections like diarrhea, stomach ulcers and food poisoning are not often dangerous in the young and adults. However, these infections can be potentially dangerous in the senior population.
It’s wise never to ignore symptoms like nausea, abdominal pain and pain in general. These infections can be easily prevented by washing your hands before each meal and by avoiding eating in unhygienic places.
Always remember that an ‘ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. So, make sure to take appropriate measures in terms of hygiene and always remember to consult your physician in case you see any unusual symptoms.
Ask a question regarding What are the Common Infections Faced by Elderly?