Seniors and Flu Season
Growing up, whenever my Gram would get sick my mom would worry- a lot. She’d flutter around the house, calling the doctor, checking Gram’s temperature what felt like every other minute, and wouldn’t stop going on about fluids. At that time, I viewed my Gram as unstoppable and always thought my mom was just overreacting despite her insisting “it’s different when you’re older!” Now that I am a tad older myself, it’s funny how I’m now the one doing the fluttering.
In recent years it’s been estimated that between 71% and 85% percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older. Followed by adults ages 50-64 and children under the age of 4. Both older adults and caregivers typically have weaker immune systems, and with the entire continental U.S. experiencing widespread flu right now, officials have said this year is shaping up to be one of the worst in recent years. Many like my 18-year-old self, will underestimate the seriousness of catching the flu. But it is especially important for older adults to take precautions as it can lead to other serious health conditions. So today we’re covering some of our best tips for keeping you and your family healthy this year.
1. Get your flu shot
The vaccine can take about two weeks to kick in, so it is recommended to get it before the season (September – May). But even if you missed the ideal window- it can still be a good idea. Many question it’s value since it may not be a perfect match, but it can certainly help protect you.
Some additional shots you may or may not want to consider can include seasonal influenza, tetanus, diphtheria, shingles, and pneumococcal vaccines.
2. Practice general good health habits
Even if you’ve been vaccinated, it’s still important to take extra precautions. Think of all those things your mom told you growing up (or what you find yourself now telling your kids.) Cough into your elbow, avoid people who are sick, take some extra vitamin c and echinacea, get enough sleep, stay hydrated, etc.
3. Wash your hands more than frequently
It’s crazy to think about how many other people we touch in a day. I remember my gram telling me that she wore gloves most of the year when going out in public. She said she would look at her gloves when arriving home and was always amazed at the dirt and grime she had picked up on a brief trip to the market. She said the first thing I would tell Betty and Bob was to wash their hands up to the elbows before they did anything else. Just yesterday I realized I shook probably ten different peoples hands throughout my workday alone. This is the easiest way to spread germs, so be sure to wash up with hot water as much as you can! In cases where you can’t get to washing your hands, hand sanitizer is your next best bet.
4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Most people don’t realize just how much we touch our eyes, nose, and mouth. But on average you touch your face 2000 to 3000 times per day! So any germs you may have on your hands are being potentially transferred right into your system.
5. Clean your cell phone, water bottle and any communal surfaces.
Did you know your water bottle has more germs in it than a dog bowl? If not, you’re now welcome for that bit of information. And if that’s how many germs your water bottle has, I don’t even want to think about the phone! You can buy electronic wipes, or just keep alcohol wipes handy and every so often give your phone a good wipe down.
Flu viruses can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours, so if you’re living with someone else, it’s extremely important to wipe everything down at least once a day. Think about things such as handles, counters, phone chargers, tv remotes, sheets even!
Unlike with a cold, flu symptoms can appear suddenly even within hours. So if you do end up with symptoms, take action right away. Take it easy, and make an appointment with your doctor. Symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have the flu- but it’s good to get a professional opinion on what you should do, especially if you are older. Symptoms of the flu may include body aches, coughing, chills, diarrhea, fatigue, fever over 100.4, headaches, muscle pain, runny nose and sore throat. Additionally, the CDC’s website covers some FAQ Flu-related questions.