Senior Flu Prevention

Mar 30, 2016

Senior Flu Prevention

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Coming down with the flu is an uncomfortable experience, no matter what age we are. The aches, fevers, and chills are enough to send anyone into a sick spell that seems endless, but these symptoms that our bodies once fought off with ease become much more severe as we age, posing serious health risks among the elderly.

Flu Prevention for Seniors 

According to the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, more than 200,000 are hospitalized for the flu each year, and from those admissions, around 36,000 patients die. That’s 18 percent, which means that almost one in four people die from a seemingly common sickness.

Sure, we’ve all probably gotten poked with a flu shot or two, but as we enter our senior years, a shot alone may not be enough to prevent the flu. With age, the immune system decreases, making it harder to fight off infection.

To better understand how to prevent the flu among the elderly, we must first understand how the flu spreads and then look for ways to prevent and treat symptoms.

How the Flu Spreads

The seasonal flu is one of the most common illnesses, despite being highly contagious. The flu is spread through the respiratory system, for example coughing or sneezing, and by exposure to any fluids that may be released during a cough or sneeze. When someone with the flu sneezes, those germs linger in the air and around any items the sick person may have touched. Be weary of germs transferred from:

  • doorknobs
  • elevator buttons
  • shopping cart handles
  • telephones
  • the faucet where you wash your hands (we turn the faucet on before we wash the germs off!)

What’s tricky about the flu is that it is contagious before any noticeable symptoms emerge.

Flu Symptoms Include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • muscle aches
  • cough
  • congestion
  • runny nose
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • fatigue

Most people who get the flu recover in a little as a few days to less than two weeks, but among the aging population, many people develop complications. Some complications the elderly may face include bronchitis, pneumonia, or ear infections, but in severe cases, the flu has caused deaths among the elderly.

Ways to Prevent the Flu

  1. Get vaccinated. If insurance doesn’t cover a flu shot, many pharmacies offer walk-in flu shot appointments for a low cost.
  2. Avoid close contact with others. Especially avoid those who may already be sick.
  3. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  4. Don’t touch your nose, mouth, and eyes. Touching these parts is one of the easiest ways for germs to get in your body.
  5. Wash your hands, and don’t forget to wash the faucet first!
  6. Practice healthy habits. A good diet and regular exercise is the best way to keep an immune system happy
  7. Stay home when you are sick. Don’t try to overexert yourself when feeling sick, this will only delay recovery time and risk exposing others to the flu.

With age, our immune systems weaken and chances of flu complications increase. That being said, it is more important than ever that we take all necessary precautions to prevent influenza. That way, it will be easy sailing straight through flu season.

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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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