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Senior Health

Pneumonia after falling

02/20/2008

Question:

Personally I know so many elderly persons who have fallen and within a day or two have been diagnosed with pneumonia, then passed on within another day or so who were never unsconscious at the time of their fall nor had they been ill with a cold or anything else. I`m trying to find out why these people have contracted pneumonia after falling when they were otherwise very healthy individuals. I do not understand how a person gets pneumonia from falling?

Answer:

When an older person falls, dependent upon the extent of the injury(ies), the person may develop pneumonia as a result of immobility, or being in bed. Pneumonia is an infection that can develop in older people as a result of reduced immune system that occurs naturally in aging. Older people are more susceptible to severe pneumonia and complications of pneumonia than are younger people. Mortality from pneumonia ranges as high as 80% in people 60 and older.

Falling often causes immobility that can lead to being bed bound. Bed rest can lead to lung inflammation that can develop into pneumonia. Lowered resistance to infections due to reduced immunity in general and infection from pneumonia, in particular. After age 60, chances increase for older people older to develop pneumonia and complications from this infection which may end in death.

This is the best general information I can provide given no specifics regarding the circumstances of the older people you refer to having fallen, developed pneumonia, and died. Hopefully, this information is helpful.

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Response by:

Evelyn L Fitzwater, DSN, RN Evelyn L Fitzwater, DSN, RN
Associate Professor Emerita
Associate Director of the
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati