Flu Season Is Here: Prevention and Treatment Tips for Seniors
Seasonal influenza, also known as the flu, is a respiratory illness that affects millions of people annually. When flu season arrives, the first message you likely receive is: Get your flu shot! The flu shot is a prevention measure that benefits everyone, but seniors stand to benefit the most.
Why the flu affects seniors differently
Older adults are more susceptible to the flu and have a harder time recovering because the immune system weakens with age. What’s more, seniors often have other health issues that increase their risk of developing flu complications such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other chronic health conditions.
Symptoms of the flu in seniors can be more severe and longer-lasting than in younger adults. Seniors may also be more likely to develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be serious or even life-threatening. When a weakened immune system is tasked with fighting a primary infection, it’s not uncommon for a secondary infection like pneumonia to attach to the body. Seniors in situations like this find their bodies must work harder to return to good health.
Flu prevention and treatment tips
Medical professionals encourage seniors to get an annual flu vaccine as it continues to be the most effective prevention method.
According to the National Institute on Aging, it is recommended to get a flu vaccine annually for two reasons. Firstly, flu viruses tend to evolve over time, and the composition of the vaccine is adjusted accordingly to protect against the most prevalent strains expected in the coming season. Secondly, the effectiveness of the flu vaccine can wane over time, especially in older adults.
While you can receive the flu vaccine anytime, most healthcare providers suggest getting the vaccine in the fall and winter. Flu season begins in October, with the peak season lasting from December to February.
If you’re an older adult who wants the flu vaccine but missed getting it by the end of October, don’t fret. Being late to the game might actually give you more protection. It’s believed that the flu vaccine in older adults doesn’t provide protection as long as it does in younger people. So, if it’s the middle of December and you’re healthy, go ahead and get the vaccine. You might be more protected as the flu season hits its stride.
The flu vaccine is an excellent prevention method, but not everyone can get the flu shot. If you had a severe reaction to the flu shot in the past or are allergic to any of its ingredients, the vaccine isn’t an option. Fortunately, there are other ways to avoid getting sick. Here are some simple precautions to keep you healthier this flu season:
- Wash your hands often
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow
- Stop touching or rubbing your eyes, mouth, or nose
- Regularly disinfect surfaces in your home
- Avoid contact with people who are sick
- Schedule non-essential doctors’ appointments after peak flu season passes
Taking simple precautions makes it less likely you’ll get sidelined by the flu, but it’s not guaranteed. So what happens if you do get the flu?
Call your healthcare provider
Start here to ensure you get the treatment you need to feel better faster. Your provider will run diagnostic tests to determine your flu type and prescribe antiviral drugs to lessen your symptoms and stave off flu complications. Getting antiviral drugs in your system early, ideally within the first two days of falling ill, is essential to shorten the time you remain sick.
While you’re under the weather, stay home and rest. Some people try to power through the flu and continue to keep busy, especially when they get sick during the holidays. However, doing this only makes it harder to get well. Your body needs to rest to recover. It also needs to stay hydrated, so make sure to drink plenty of liquids.
You also want to stay alert for signs of worsening symptoms that require emergency care. These signs include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Chest pain or pressure
- Feeling faint
- Severe vomiting
- Fever above 101-102°F that lasts 3-5 days
If you experience any of these symptoms or others that worry you, and you live alone, get help immediately!
The flu is a serious illness, but highly preventable when you take precautions. By following these tips, seniors can minimize their risk of complications and improve their chances of a speedy recovery.
Your personal journey through life is unique, and tomorrow is a brand-new day. Right now you’re living at home, healthy and active, and you have every intention of staying that way. This is precisely what Springpoint Choice was designed to help you accomplish.