Flu Prevention Tips For Seniors
October – leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping, and fall-flavored beverages have made their comeback. Autumn also brings unwanted colds, sniffles and a widespread influx of germs and viruses.
During the 2017-2018 season (August-May), the Connecticut Department of Public Health reported a total of 12,057 influenza positive lab tests, with 3,677 reports in Fairfield County alone. As the next flu season approaches, it’s important for the general public to take the necessary steps to protect themselves.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), due to a weakened immune system often attributed to age, people ages 65 and older are at greater risk for serious complications from the flu. In recent years, it’s estimated that between 70 and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older. As executive director of Edgehill, improving the quality of life of older adults and protecting them from health complications is my no. 1 mission. This season, let’s keep everyone, especially the senior population, in our state safe and healthy.
What is the flu?
Influenza, or the “flu,” is a contagious respiratory illness. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can even be fatal. The flu affects all age groups, although older adults, young children and people with certain health conditions are at high risk for serious complications, including bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions. These viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk.
How can I prevent it?
- Vaccinate – An annual flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October. Adults 65 and older should receive the high-dose vaccine that contains four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot.
- Avoid Germs – Although it’s impossible to avoid germs entirely, try to limit contact with sick people. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Clean and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated with germs.
- Healthy Habits – Practicing healthy habits like getting plenty of sleep, staying physically active and managing stress goes along way in building up your immune system. Maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of fluids and nutritious food is also crucial.
- Stay Home – If you do start to feel sick, stay home and rest. Avoid spreading your illness to others and follow public health advice on how to recover. The CDC recommends staying at home, away from others, for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks.
Flu symptoms include fever greater than 100 degrees, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Emergency warning signs are difficulty breathing, pain in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion and severe or persistent vomiting. If you or a loved one are 65 years and older and experience any of those emergency warning signs of flu sickness, seek medical attention right away. Where ever you are this flu season, take the appropriate measures to stay healthy and don’t hesitate to contact a health professional with questions.
About the author:
Christopher Barstein, executive director at Edgehill Community, a Benchmark Senior Living Community in Stamford, Conn., has dedicated his career to improving the lives of seniors and enhancing human connection. Under his leadership, the Stamford-based, Type A Lifecare, all-inclusive continuing care retirement community offers exceptional, maintenance-free senior housing, a wide variety of premium services and amenities, and a full continuum of on-site health care.