Monday, December 1, 2014

Protecting Against Cold and Flu This Season

Having the flu or even a bad cold is enough to make almost anyone feel miserable. While these illnesses generally pass within a few days for relatively healthy individuals, they pose increased risk to people over age 65. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[1], “During most seasons, it’s estimated that 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and between 50 and 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations in the United States occur in people 65 years and older.” Taking precautions to reduce risk of infection can help seniors to stay healthier this season.

·         Wash your hands: This is one of the most common recommendations for people of all ages and for good reason. Regularly washing your hands can minimize the amount of germs you are spreading. Always wash your hands before eating and try to avoid touching your face as the eyes, nose, and mouth are gateways for germs into the body. If you’re out in public, be conscientious about the surfaces you touch and make sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to reduce the spread of germs.

·         Boost your immune system: As people age, their immune system begins to weaken and they are more susceptible to illness. Eating a well-balanced diet, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting a good night’s rest every day can keep your immune system stronger.

·         Get vaccinated: Seniors are encouraged to get high-dose flu vaccines as well as the pneumococcal vaccine. This can protect against certain strains of the flu as well as pneumococcal disease, which includes pneumonia. You should get vaccinated every year as the vaccine changes depending on which viruses are thought to be most common for the season.

·         Limit visits with those who are ill: Try to limit exposure to anyone who is sick until their symptoms have subsided. Although this can be inconvenient at times, it can reduce risk of contracting or spreading germs. If you are sick, try to minimize your contact with others so you don’t make them sick as well. If you are around others who are sick, make sure to wash your hands regularly.

·         Stay alert for signs of illness: Being proactive can help you to reduce risk of complications from the flu. Practice good health measures and monitor any symptoms you may develop. Talk to your doctor if you know you are at increased risk and ask what they recommend. Ensure that you are resting, drinking water, and eating well to keep up your strength and allow your body to fight off any infection.

While there is no way to entirely eliminate the risk of getting sick, taking proper precautions can help to reduce exposure to germs. Know your body and recognize signs that you are not feeling well so that you can act quickly to treat illness and monitor your recovery. Caregivers should check in frequently on seniors who fall ill to ensure they get the medical care they need to minimize complications and enhance recovery.


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