People who have COPD are more prone to lung infections, but they can also experience something called exacerbations. It’s tough to tell the difference between the two unless you learn what you’re looking for in each.
Exacerbations Can Precede an Infection
In many cases, exacerbations are just the beginning of a lung infection. What happens is that the normal symptoms your senior experiences get much worse. If there’s no infection, though, your senior’s symptoms gradually go back to normal. This can happen over a period of days and it might be a result of smoky air or too much exercise. It helps to have elder care providers available so that they can take over tasks for your senior if she experiences an exacerbation.
Lung Infections Keep Getting Worse
Lung infections involve bacteria, viruses, or even fungi taking hold in your senior’s lungs. The infection often is accompanied by a fever. Exacerbations can get better fairly quickly, but lung infections keep getting worse. They require specific treatments to help you’re senior to get over them.
Increased Shortness of Breath and Rapid Breathing
Something else that your elderly family member might notice at the beginning of a lung infection is that her breathing may become more rapid and more difficult to catch. No matter how much she tries to slow down her breathing, she may not be able to do so through typical means of simply concentrating on slowing her breaths. Pursed-lip breathing is a technique that can help, however.
A Cough with Mucus
Her cough may change, too. Many people with COPD have a daily cough, but with a lung infection, it may become productive. This means that it kicks mucus out of her lungs. And that mucus may change, too. It can get thicker and feel sticky in your senior’s throat. When she coughs it into a tissue, her mucus may also change color to a green or yellow color. Normally it should be clearer.
Your senior may also describe a pain or ache in her chest. Her chest may feel tighter when she breathes. Chest pain in and of itself doesn’t necessarily mean that your elderly family member has a lung infection, but if it’s combined with other symptoms then it’s more likely to be related to an infection.
As you start to learn the differences between exacerbations and infections, you can learn when it’s time to get help for your senior. Talk with her doctor about what other signs you need to look for in your senior’s case because she may have specific underlying issues that change the signals.