Whether it’s TV coverage or a sign in a pharmacy window, once the cold weather begins to set in, news about the flu and its prevention are everywhere. Regardless of a person’s age or health status, the flu can be a terrible experience. The Centers for Disease Control says that more than 200,000 people get the flu each year, and an estimated 36,000 of them die. Seniors in their 70’s and 80’s are at a higher risk than people of other ages due to their declining immune system. Preventing the flu in seniors is vital.
Avoiding the flu involves more than simply avoiding people who are sick. Many people with the flu may still be contagious, though their symptoms have yet to show up, or have receded. The symptoms are fairly well known, fever and chills, a runny nose, headache, sore throat, fatigue, and a cough, as well as nausea and vomiting in extreme cases. The flu virus remains active up to five days after symptoms show up. Getting the flu shot is important because each year the strains of the disease are different and a flu shot from last year may not do the trick this time.
Seasonal flu is one of the most highly contagious diseases. It spreads by “respiratory drops” that fly through the area when flu carriers cough and sneeze. The flu virus lives everywhere during the winter, on door knobs, telephones, and products in the store. A senior could go grocery shopping, or touch a door and end up becoming very sick.
About 10-20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu each year, and maintaining proper personal hygiene in addition to the flu shot can keep sickness at bay. Avoiding touching the nose and eyes while out and about and washing hands immediately after returning home are simple ways to avoid spreading the virus. Drinking plenty of fluids, staying hydrated, and resting are other great tactics.
Flu spreads easily in crowded areas, and for seniors living in assisted-care facilities, it can seem unavoidable. However, these types of facilities typically require all employees and residents to get a flu shot. By ensuring that as many people as possible in these homes are immunized, the spread of the flu virus can be more easily prevented. Any senior, even if they believe they are totally healthy, should have a new flu shot. It can save their life.
These tips are simply common sense in terms of caring for seniors and preventing the flu. It’s necessary to practice all of these flu-prevention steps because even when one has had the flu shot it is still possible to contract the virus. However, add in other prevention tips and the risk of getting the flu decreases. Let’s make sure our seniors can spend time doing what they love, instead of spending time in bed with the flu.