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Flu Prevention for Seniors

Getting a cold, or even worse, the flu, is a miserable inconvenience for anyone. For a senior, the outcome can be much more serious. 90% of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in people 65 years and older.

Immune systems in older adults tend to be weaker, thus allowing the flu to turn into more serious conditions such as bronchitis even pneumonia. Pneumonia is one of the most common and serious flu complications that occur in the elderly. It can develop quickly and become very severe in older adults who are not able to fight off the infection.

Symptoms of the flu include

  • Fever (usual)
  • Headaches (common)
  • Extreme tiredness (can last two or three weeks)
  • Aches and pains (often severe)
  • Dry cough (common and can become severe)
  • Sore throat (sometimes)
  • Runny or stuffy nose (sometimes)

Unlike colds, which tend to have a more gradual onset, the flu usually comes on more suddenly. Although it is more common in children, some seniors have stomach problems like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea when they catch the flu. If you happen to experience these symptoms, seek medical advice immediately. 

Is it the cold or the flu?

flu cartoon girl

Fever: Rare for a cold, common with flu. Fever with flu can go over 102 degrees, especially in children, and can persist for three or four days.

Headache: Rare for a cold, common in flu.

Aches and pains: Mild with a cold, often severe with flu.

Fatigue: Sometimes occurs with colds, but flu usually starts with a period of exhaustion, with fatigue lasting two or three weeks.

Sneezing, stuffy nose, sore throat: These are the most frequent symptoms of a cold, but can also occur with the flu.

Chest discomfort, cough: Mild to moderate with colds, but can be severe with flu.

Take precautions to reduce your flu risk

  1. Stay away from sick people, especially in small enclosed spaces such as cars or elevators
  2. Practice good health habits like covering coughs and washing your hands often
  3. Get a flu shot early because it takes about 2 weeks for the shot to protect you
  4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  5. Get lots of sleep
  6. Exercise
  7. Eat healthy (which means lots of fruits and vegetables)
  8. Manage stress levels
  9. Consume enough fluids

Seasonal flu activity in the US can begin as early as October and last as late as May, but it usually peaks in January or February. The best way of reducing the chances of getting the flu is by getting a seasonal flu vaccine each year.

It is important that seniors get a vaccination since they are at high risk for complications from the flu. Getting the flu shot is an important preventative step for seniors to take. It makes a big difference in hospitalization and death rates among those who live at home and in nursing homes. 

What to avoid

Being a grandparent is amazing. The unconditional love you have with your grandchildren is inseparable. You get unlimited amounts of hugs and kisses. But sometimes you have to be cautious. Kids come with germs and you should take care.

Make sure you wash your hands multiple times throughout the day, especially when you are around children. On average, people touch their faces 3.6 times per hour. It is best to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth as much as possible to prevent germs from being transmitted to those locations.

How is the flu treated?

Contact your doctor to check for complications and suggest treatment. If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness. Antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. It is very important that antiviral drugs are used early to treat flu in people who are very sick.

Make sure to get lots of rest. Drink plenty of liquids to keep your body hydrated.

Alert1 wants you stay well and avoid getting the flu. Your best line of defense against the flu virus is getting vaccinated. Make sure you make the extra steps to get the flu shot. Receiving the vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of infection by about 60%. In some cases where vaccinated people still get the flu, the symptoms would be lesser because the vaccine has generated an immune response. 

Stay safe and protect yourself today!

Watching your health is crucial as you get older. The common cold and flu can be a lot more severe for older adults. If you follow these tips, you are one step away from preventing the flu.

If you happen to catch the flu, keeping these tips in mind may stop the flu from turning into something much more serious.

Alert1 suggests getting a medical alert system to protect you at all times, with the flu or not. With a medical alert system, you will have 24/7 monitoring care, so in the event of an emergency you are only a press of a button away from help.