As the 2018-2019 flu season approaches, senior citizens must be vigilant about protecting their health. As we age, our immune systems become less effective, which makes seniors far more vulnerable to the flu’s effects.
Center for Disease Control (CDC ) studies show that over 30,000 people a year die from the flu, with more than half that number being people aged 65 and older. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to fully predict how the upcoming season will play out. Influenza is a constantly evolving virus, and the rate and length at which it spreads changes — sometimes drastically —from year to year.
Flu season typically lasts from October to late February, but at times it’s lasted well into March. For more information on previous flu seasons, you can visit the CDC’s website.
So if you’re over the age of 65, it’s in your best interest to avoid the flu altogether. Fortunately, that’s possible using these three simple tips:
1. Get Vaccinated
The best way to prepare for the upcoming season is to get vaccinated against the flu. The CDC recommends getting your vaccination before the end of October, but if you miss the deadline, that doesn’t mean it’s too late. On the contrary, it makes getting the vaccine all the more urgent. Because in the season’s later months, vaccine supplies often run short.
Fortunately, there’s a special high dosage vaccine for seniors designed to make up for their immune system deficits. Doctor’s also highly recommend seniors get pneumococcal vaccinations in addition to the flu shot to help prevent pneumonia and similar respiratory diseases, which can be life-threatening when paired with the flu.
2. Wash Your Hands Regularly
Besides the flu vaccine, regular hand-washing is the best way to avoid getting sick. Use soap and warm water frequently, especially after touching doorknobs and other surfaces sick people likely come in contact with. It’s also helpful to regularly sanitize household surfaces to help prevent spreading the disease among your loved ones.
3. Consider Avoiding Public Spaces
The flu spreads through bodily fluids, most commonly through a cough. Even if you think you’re covering your mouth, small amounts of saliva can make it through and infect the people around you. With so many people in areas like shopping malls, movie theaters, or transportation hubs like airports or train stations, it’s nearly impossible to avoid exposure to the virus.
If you must venture out, do so with extreme caution. In these situations, it’s smart to carry a travel size bottle of hand sanitizer and to use it often. In areas where the flu is especially active, you can help reduce your flu exposure risk by wearing a face mask while out in public. There are plenty of online resources that will help you track the flu’s severity in your area.
If You Develop Symptoms
Of course, it’s possible to become infected, even if you take every precaution. The most common influenza symptoms are body aches, headaches, fatigue, stuffy nose, sore throat, and chills. If you notice any of these symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible. Even if you do become ill, your doctor can prescribe antiviral medication to treat the flu that could shorten the duration of your illness and make your symptoms less severe.
These medicines have a short window of effectiveness, however. So if you believe you’ve come down with the flu, contact your primary care provider immediately.
Housebound Seniors Need Extra Assistance
For housebound or disabled seniors, getting proper medical care can be a challenge. If you or a loved one lives in Arizona, you can contact Generations Home Care at 602-595-HOME (4663), or fill out our contact form online to learn how we can help.
Our team will send someone out to your home for a free consultation and needs assessment. Our caregivers will then work in your home to help you, or your loved one, live a healthier, more independent life. Facing the flu can be daunting, but with a few extra precautions, we can all make it through the season happy and healthy.