5 Tips to Prevent Cold and Flu in Seniors

May 4, 2016

5 Tips to Prevent Cold and Flu in Seniors

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Cold and flu is a big deal for seniors and cannot be taken lightly. With 80 to 90 percent of flu related deaths and 50 to 70 percent of flu related hospitalizations being in those 65 years old and older, it is important to take every possible preventative measure to avoid it.

Both the cold and flu are contagious viral illnesses that are typically spread through viral particles when the infected person coughs or sneezes. Touching objects that were contaminated and then touching your eyes can also spread it. While the cold and flu are different, the preventative measures are mostly the same between the two. As a senior, the development of additional illnesses from a cold or the flu is more likely than when you were younger because the immune system tends to weaken as you get older. Bronchitis and pneumonia are both serious illnesses that can result.

5 Tips for Senior Cold and Flu Prevention

With the risk factors associated with getting the cold or flu as a senior, it is important to take preventative measures before you see the signs and symptoms of a cold or flu.

1. Build up your immune system

You can do this by sleeping and eating well. Make sure that you are getting plenty of sleep at night as well as eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. It is also important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Living a healthy lifestyle is always a good way to live your life because it can keep your immune system strong, but as a senior with an immune system weakening with age, your health is especially important. Stress is another factor that impacts your immune system, so make sure that you are managing any stress appropriately.

2. Wash your hands

There are germs everywhere and coming into contact with the viruses and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth leads to contracting the illness. People can be contagious with the viruses before they even know that they have it, so don’t wait to wash your hands until you see someone that is sick. Make it common practice to consistently wash your hands throughout the day but particularly before you eat and when you have been around other people.

3. Be careful around kids

Children usually carry germs around with them. This also applies to adults who work with kids because they are constantly surrounded by them and are therefore constantly exposed to the germs that kids are carrying around with them. Children are more likely to forget to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze, or cover with their hands and then not wash them. It can be especially tough when you have grandkids or live in a household with kids, but it is important to keep your distance, but when you can’t wash your hands often.

4. Avoid crowded places

Do this when you can, but especially during cold and flu season. Places where large numbers of people congregate, such as malls, or enclosed areas, like cars or elevators, should be avoided when cold and flu are rampant. If you cannot avoid these types of places and you have a weakened immune system, wearing a mask is recommended.

5. Get a flu shot

A flu shot is recommended to everyone over the age of 6 months, but they are especially important for seniors 65 and older. It is one of the most important methods to fight the flu. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) encourages getting a flu shot each year by October because the vaccine is adjusted to reflect what research studies have determined the prevalent strains. There are two different dosages available for seniors; the first is the regular dose and the second, a higher dose. The higher dose is associated with a higher immune system response with initial research suggesting it provides a greater protection against the flu.

Both colds and the flu are major concerns for seniors, so doing everything in your power to prevent them is the best thing that you can do so you don’t get sick.

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Frequently Asked Questions

My father has had a cough for sometime now. He insists it's just a cold, but we're worried it could be more. Could it be walking pneumonia?

Yes, it is possible that it could be walking pneumonia, but it could even just be a lingering symptom of a cold like your dad said. However, it is important to know when a cough is more than just a cough because it could actually be a more serious condition like the walking pneumonia you suggested, or chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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How do I cure a cold?

Common colds are easily remedied especially in the early stages. Cold treatments can be found at any drug store and are considered over the counter medication. Decongestant sprays and cough syrups are the most common over the counter medications used to treat common colds. Pain relievers are also used for headaches associated with the illness. Often, medications are combined to treat all cold symptoms. Natural medications are also available.

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