It is no secret that anyone age 65 years and older is at an increased risk of the flu this season for many reasons, including weakened immune systems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has officially declared a flu epidemic this season, encouraging extra precautions, especially for our aging adult population. Ninety-percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.
The risk for the seasonal flu is not the only concern for our aging population. According to the CDC, there are several complications that can result from the flu in the elderly, including pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections. There are steps that can be taken to prevent getting sick, while also avoiding the risk of complications.
Here are some precautionary steps to take to help prevent the risk of the flu this season:
• Get vaccinated. There are two options for a flu vaccination: the regular dose flu shot and the high dose flu shot. The high dose flu shot is specifically designed for older adults, and typically results in a stronger immune response. It is never too late to get the vaccination, as long as the flu viruses are still circulating.
• Wash your hands regularly. It is important to wash your hands often during cold and flu season. It is especially important after every time you sneeze, cough, or touch your face. This prevents the spread of germs. It is also important to sanitize your surroundings, by keeping things clean and getting rid of germs and bacteria, help prevent the spread of disease.
• Avoid close contact with sick people. This may seem like common sense, but it is important to give yourself room if a loved one gets sick, preventing the spread of the flu.
• Get plenty of rest. Sleep is one of the most important functions that our body uses to regulate and heal cells. Getting enough sleep will help your body recharge, giving it the strength to fight infection.
• Stay active. Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity builds your body’s immune system. This gives you the ability to fight infections and lowers the risk of getting the flu.
• Maintain a healthy diet. A well-nourished immune system is better able to fight off infections. Fueling your body with proper nutrition enables your body to fight off those infections.
• Drink plenty of fluids. Water is the main component of the human body. Staying hydrated gives your body the strength to fight infections, while also consistently flushing any toxins out of the body.
If you begin to experience flu-like symptoms, it is very important that you contact your health provider immediately to find out what the next steps will be.
At times, they may prescribe an antiviral medication to help make your symptoms less severe, and also help you start feeling better faster. It is extremely important to stay at home, drink plenty of fluids, and rest until the fever is gone for at least 24 hours. This ensures that you will not be contagious to those around you.
By following proper precautionary steps, you will give yourself the best chance of staying healthy this flu season.
Bob Roth is managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions, LLC. For more information, visit cypresshomecare.com.