Getting pneumonia while hospitalized

March 21, 2017

If your relative has been hospitalized, you may have noticed an odd-looking device on their bedside table called a “spirometer.”  Medical staff encourages patients to blow into it several times an hour to prevent a serious infection: hospital-acquired pneumonia.

While in the hospital patients spend a lot of time in bed. Without activity, fluids can build up in the lungs and become a prime site for infection. Add a weakened immune system and exposure to lots of people (staff, other patients, and visitors), and the risk of an infection goes way up.

Also, hospital germs are very powerful. A lot of them are even resistant to antibiotics.

If your loved one is hospitalized, here are some things you can do to help prevent this dangerous complication:

  • Everyone who enters the room have them wash their hands. Hand sanitizer will also work. This includes friends and family, and hospital staff.
  • Stay home if you are sick. And ask the same of any visitors.
  • Get your relative up and walking as soon as possible. Keeping active is the best way to clear out  the lungs and engage the body’s natural healing mechanisms.
  • Encourage deep breathing. Ask hospital staff to show you and your relative the proper use of the spirometer. Encourage your loved one to use the spirometer and track progress.
  • Keep the headboard raised. Having a 30° angle on the bed is enough to keep the lungs clear.
  • Ensure good oral hygiene. Brush teeth and rinse the mouth at least twice a day you can get rid of bacteria that might possibly be on their way to the lungs. Also tell hospital staff of any mouth sores or cuts, as these will need special attention.
  • Ask whether a pneumonia vaccine is appropriate. A pneumonia vaccine might be a wise precaution depending on your relative’s condition, immunization history, and likely length of stay.