Senior Flu Prevention
No matter your age, getting the flu is no fun. Each year, between 5 and 20 percent of adults are diagnosed with the flu. Flu season is generally considered to be between the months of December and March, but outbreaks can happen as early as October and as late into the year as May. While most healthy adults fare just fine, older adults, especially those with additional health concerns, have an increased likelihood of experiencing complications with the virus. They may have to endure a hospital stay, and for some, the flu can even be fatal. Fortunately, there are several measures that you can take to help both yourself and your senior loved one stay well. As we’re heading into flu season, follow these tips to help protect your senior loved one from viruses.
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and when it comes to flu prevention, that is certainly true. This year, there will be approximately 180 million flu vaccines available in the country. In addition to being readily available at your doctor’s office, flu vaccines are also commonly available at pharmacies, college health centers, health departments and even some supermarkets and big box stores. Although receiving the flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get sick, it does go a long way in protecting you from the season’s most common strains. Some places even offer a flu vaccine that is formulated specifically for seniors. It contains four times the concentration of the active ingredient, providing a better immune response for those who have weakened immune systems. Each year has a new flu shot to combat that season’s most common strains, so even if you and your senior loved one received last year’s flu vaccine, it’s important to receive this year’s as well.
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, seniors should also receive pneumococcal vaccines. These vaccines provide protection against illnesses and complications that often accompany the flu virus, including pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections.
Practice Good Health Habits
Especially if your senior loved one lives in a community setting, attends an adult day center or volunteers in the community, exposure to the flu virus may be inevitable. By taking the time to practice good health habits, they can stop germs. Avoid close contact with people that you know are sick, and if you get sick, keep your distance from others. The flu virus is spread through droplets, so when coughing or sneezing, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. Germs can also hang out on door knobs, light switches, remote controls and other commonly handled items, so make a habit of washing your hands often, and avoid touching your face as much as possible.
Seek Medical Help Right Away
If in spite of their best efforts, your senior loved one does contract the flu virus, it’s important that they seek medical help right away. In addition to monitoring their condition, their medical care provider can administer antiviral medications from keeping their illness from worsening.
You may not be able to completely avoid exposure to the flu virus as the cooler months approach, but by taking these simple measures, you can ensure that you and your loved one are as protected as possible from the flu and its complications.