Pneumonia Risk Management and Prevention

Although older adults are at higher risk for pneumonia and complications, there are several easy means of prevention.

Helpful Highlights

  • Older adults (age 65 and older, especially 80 and older) are a high-risk group for pneumonia.

  • There are many, many simple ways to reduce risk and prevent pneumonia.

  • Regular hand washing and quitting smoking are the best first steps.

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High-risk groups

Anyone can get pneumonia. However, the following groups are at the highest risk of contracting pneumonia or experiencing complications:

  • Adults ages 65 and older (especially 80 and older) and children younger than 5.

    • Especially older adults living in communal settings (large or multiple-family households, assisted living facilities)

  • People who have chronic medical conditions, like diabetes or heart or lung disease.

  • People with weakened immune systems (cancer, transplant, autoimmune).

  • Smokers.

Risk management and prevention

Lowering the risk

  • Annual flu shot

  • Pneumonia vaccination

  • Have a provider check any suspected complications with swallowing (aspiration can cause pneumonia)

  • Control existing medical conditions (especially heart or lung disease and diabetes)

  • Get testing for symptoms (influenza A & B, COVID-19)

  • Regular hand washing

Further lowering the risk

  • Eat healthy foods (a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, high fiber)

  • Drink lots of fluids (clear liquids are best)

  • Limit alcohol intake*

  • Quit smoking

  • Get adequate rest (7-9 hours) at night

  • Stay active

  • Wash hands regularly

*National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism - people older than age 65, who are healthy and don't take medications, no more than seven drinks a week. American Diabetes Association - one drink or less a day for women, or two drinks or less a day for men.

Even more to lower the risk

  • Regularly clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces (door knobs, all handles, countertops).

  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of the elbow.

Cough into Elbow

  • Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking damages the lungs and makes infection more likely.

  • Stay away from others when sick.

  • Stay away from others who are sick (like grandchildren).

  • Avoid close contact and sharing items with others if either is sick.

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