When you were younger, getting the flu was no big deal. It was inconvenient to slow down your life while you gave your body time recover, but you could rest assured that you would be back to feeling like your usual self in a few days.
Then something happened. You turned 65.
As we age, recovering from an illness becomes more challenging. Seniors often have a weaker immune system and are more likely to have pre-existing health conditions that make them more susceptible to serious flu-related complications.
As a result, the flu can leave seniors out of commission for a lot longer than a few days or weeks. Sometimes their health is never fully restored. The flu can leave seniors permanently weaker and slower, both physically and cognitively.
The best way for seniors to protect themselves is to avoid getting the flu in the first place. Here’s what seniors should know to avoid the bug.
3 Things Seniors Can Do to Avoid the Flu
1. Get a Flu Shot.
A flu shot is one of the best ways seniors can protect themselves from flu-related complications. The shot might not always prevent them from getting the flu, but it can decrease the severity and minimize symptoms.
Two flu shots are specifically designed for senior citizens; both of them work by creating a stronger immune response:
- A high-dose flu vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot.
- An adjuvanted vaccine is a standard flu shot with an added adjuvant. An adjuvant is an ingredient that provokes a stronger immune response.
There are many myths about the flu shot that make people hesitant to get one, including the misconception that the flu shot causes the flu. While the flu vaccine can result in mild side effects, they are nothing compared to getting the flu.
Seniors should be able to get a flu shot at their doctor's office, their local pharmacy, or at a blood-testing lab.
2. Wash Your Hands Properly and Frequently.
One of the simplest ways seniors can decrease their chances of getting the flu is to wash their hands frequently throughout the day. Not only does hand washing reduce the risk of contracting the flu, but it also minimizes the risk of spreading germs to others.
It’s not enough to rub your hands together with soap and water for a few seconds. Make sure you wash your hands correctly.
Seniors should wash their hands during the following times:
- Before, during, and after being in contact with food.
- After using the restroom.
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- After being in contact with an animal or its food.
- After touching garbage, doors, or anything accessible to the public.
- Before and after you are around other people, especially if they are sick.
3. Stay Indoors When the Mercury Drops.
Midwest winters can be particularly dangerous for seniors, especially for those with a respiratory disease. The freezing winter weather can make it difficult for them to breathe, resulting in serious complications.
The flu is highly contagious, so seniors should do their best to avoid crowded places during flu season. If you do have to be out in public, take extra precautions about who and what you come into contact with.
Here are a few ways seniors can avoid the flu while in public:
- Limit hugs and handshakes.
- Use hand sanitizer frequently.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Use antibacterial wipes to wipe down shopping cart handles and door knobs.
- Wash your hands frequently.
Getting the Flu is Serious for Seniors
The flu is inconvenient for everyone, but for seniors the damage can be dangerous. If you are over 65 years old and think you may have the flu, contact your physician. Your doctor can prescribe you an antiviral influenza treatment that can help you fight the flu more quickly.
If you are concerned about your ability to stay safe during winter months, whether it is from inclement weather or the flu, you may want to consider a short-term stay at a senior living community. Many senior communities like Randall Residence offer respite services. Contact us today to learn more about our temporary living options in Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois.