Common Infections in Older Adults and How to Prevent Them


Common Infections in Older Adults and How to Prevent Them

Have you ever noticed that in times of flu vaccine shortages, the inventory is reserved for infants, the elderly, and pregnant women? That’s because these are populations for whom the consequences of developing the flu are more severe. 

For the elderly, many infections can lead to complications that don’t usually arise in younger adults. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Knowing is half the battle,” right? Well, in the case of infection prevention, it certainly rings true. Education is the first step in protecting our loved ones from infection. Take a look below at some of the common infections in older adults – and how to prevent them. 

Urinary Tract Infection

A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria in the bladder or kidney multiplies in the urine. Along with uncomfortable symptoms, such as the frequent need to urinate and pain or burning with urination, an untreated urinary tract infection can also lead to hallucinations, dizziness, falling, kidney infection, kidney failure, or even sepsis. Because the uncomfortable symptoms that allow for early detection sometimes don’t show up in the elderly, prevention is that much more important. 

How to prevent it: 
Be sure your loved one drinks 2 to 4 quarts of fluid every day. Cranberry juice or cranberry tablets (unless you have a family history of kidney stones) also help. Cotton underwear should be worn and changed daily. 

Skin Infection

Our skin is the first line of defense against bacterial invasion. Our epidermis even has a resident microflora to add to our protection. Aging, however, alters those defense mechanisms, making our skin more vulnerable to infections. The likelihood of developing herpes zoster (shingles), pressure ulcers, cellulitis, and bacterial foot infections can increase with age. 

How to prevent it: 
Have your loved one vaccinated for herpes zoster. Be sure to help them practice good hygiene and frequent hand washing.


Older adults are prone to severe complications from influenza, due in part to weakened immunity and co-existing chronic diseases. Most people recover within a week, but it may take much longer for older adults. During this time, they are also at higher risk for developing pneumonia

How to prevent it: 
Seasonal flu shots are a great preventative measure. Help your loved one stay away from people who are sick and practice good hygiene to avoid catching or spreading the flu. 

Bacterial Pneumonia

Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of hospitalization among the elderly. More than 60% of people ages 65 and older are admitted to hospitals because of pneumonia. Severe symptoms include cough, severe chest pain, labored breathing, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and more. 

How to prevent it: 
Have your loved one vaccinated against bacterial pneumococcal pneumonia. Annual flu shots a great defense against the flu, which can lead to pneumonia. If necessary, help your loved one quit smoking and eat well to keep a healthy immune system. 

Gastrointestinal Infection

Gastrointestinal infections can be viral, bacterial, or parasitic. They cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. One of the main dangers of gastrointestinal infections is dehydration. Some gastrointestinal infections resolve after a few days, but left untreated, some can lead to kidney failure, peptic ulcers, and even death. 

How to prevent it: 
Proper hand washing and cleanliness around food prep areas are both important for reducing the risk of infection. 

Your can trust us with the health of your loved one

At Bella Vista Health Center in Lemon Grove, we take the health of our residents seriously. Our staff is highly skilled and trained in the prevention of infection as well as the detection of early signs of illness. We care so deeply about your loved ones that they become our loved ones, too, and we’ll do everything we can to keep them safe and healthy.  

For more information about our skilled nursing care, rehabilitation programs, or any of our other services, give us a call or drop by any time.  We look forward to hearing from you.