As flu season is nearly here, taking a few small preventative measures could be all you have to do to avoid dealing with the nasty bug this winter. According to the Center for Disease Control, over 300,000 people were hospitalized for flu-related illnesses during the 2015-2016 flu season. While the CDC has reported that the flu activity in the U.S. is low now, they expect it to pick up in the coming weeks. The flu can affect anyone but the elderly are susceptible to it because the immune system becomes weaker with age. This means not only are senior citizens more likely to contract the disease, especially those who live in close proximity with others like in a senior living home or live with a personal caretaker, but the symptoms can be even more severe than those seen in kids and younger adults.
It is estimated by the CDC that 70 to 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and 54 to 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occurred in people 65 years and older. While some people might no think much of the flu, it can have disastrous consequences for older individuals.
How the Flu Spreads
The flu, like many other diseases, is spread by respiratory means through things like sneezing and coughing. The CDC says that people with the flu can spread it to others up to six feet away. While sneezing, coughing and talking are the main causes of the flu, it can also spread by touch. People with the flu are the most contagious in the first four days after the illness begins.
The flu can be a mild to severe illness that can, at times, lead to death. The flu is different from the cold although they do carry some similar symptoms. For one, the flu comes on suddenly while a cold is a gradual process. Some of the most common symptoms of the flu include:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Sore Throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body and muscle aches
- A fever or chills
However, because the flu can affect people aged 65 and older in more severe ways due to a weakened immune system, if you or a loved one experiences symptoms like difficulty breathing, confusion, persistent vomiting, or pain in the abdomen it is important to seek medical attention right away.
How to Prevent the Flu
It is important to protect yourself from the flu and to tackle it early as senior citizens are more at risk for developing flu-related complications There are many things that can be done to prevent the flu, however, the CDC says that the single best way to improve your chances of not contracting the yearly flu is to get vaccinated. While this is the most effective, there are a number of other ways you can go about to fight the flu, including:
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
- Clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand solution
- Avoid touching your face, including your nose and mouth
- While sick, limit contact with others to avoid infecting them
Taking antiviral drugs that your doctor prescribes can also reduce the effects and chance of getting the flu. Antiviral drugs can make the sickness less severe and shorten the time you are sick.
Other easy things you can do to reduce your chances of catching the flu is to practice good hygiene habits such as using disinfectant frequently, cleaning your living area, and keeping hand sanitizer handy. Cleaning your hands after using door knobs, using the restroom or putting your hands on public stairs or rails can all go a long way to prevent the flu. Sanitizing your mobile devices is something that is often overlooked, however, cell phones and iPads can carry a mountain of germs everywhere they go.
Getting proper sleep, being physically active, drinking water and eating properly can all help in your fight to avoid the flu.
As mentioned earlier, vaccines are the best preventative measure for the flu. According to the CDC, the flu vaccine can reduce the likelihood of contracting the flu by between 40 to 60 percent. And, according to data for this upcoming flu season, vaccines have been updated to match viruses better.
While age is can factor into whether or not someone can get a flu shot, they are generally recommended for all people over six months old. As long as a doctor recommends the vaccination it should be given.
There are even specific flu shot that are available to seniors such as a high-dose or the adjuvanted vaccines. The high dose is different in that it is over 24 percent more effective in preventing the flu in adults 65 and older to the standard vaccine. The CDC found that the adjuvanted vaccine was 63 percent more effective.
Most people don’t have any problem with a flu shot, but side effects like soreness or a headache do occur sometimes.
The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, however getting vaccines later can still be beneficial even until January.
Pharmacies, health care facilities, urgent cares, schools, and college centers are some of the places you can go to receive your flu shot. The Vaccine Health Map is one way to find a location that offers the flu shot in your area.
That’s just a few of the things you can do to improve your chances of not getting the yearly flu. Are you looking into a senior living facility for your family member that will support their senior health? Landmark Senior Living is available today to take you and your loved one to come see one of our seven premier and affordable communities in person. Call now for more information.