The flu season is unpredictable. Sometimes the flu shot works, and sometimes it doesn’t work. The flu shot is made from last year’s influenza strain. Therefore, if the current year strain is different than the last year’s strain, the flu vaccine will not be effective. In this article I will discuss 9 ways the elderly can avoid the flu.
The elderly are vulnerable because they often have more medical problems, and their immune system is compromised. The flu or influenza can be fatal in people with compromised immune systems.
9 to Avoid the Flu in the Elderly
The elderly, sick people and children are the most susceptible to getting the flu. This viral infection can be very serious. The flu with pneumonia kills approximately 50,000 people per year. The majority of these people are over the age of 65 according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Why Does the Flu Kill So Many Quickly?
“There are three reasons why influenza can kill some people so quickly.
Doctors who study the body’s immune response say there are three main reasons: co-infection with another germ, usually bacteria such as strep; aggravation of existing conditions such as heart disease and asthma; and a so-called cytokine storm, marked by an overwhelming immune system response to infection.”
What Are Symptoms Of Influenza?
The symptoms of the flu can range from being mild to severe. In the elderly, the flu symptoms can be moderate to severe. This why you must take every precaution to avoid the flu.
Some of the symptoms of flu in the elderly are:
- Fever greater than 101F
- Headaches are common
- Fatigue that can last 3-4 weeks sometimes lasting longer
- Severe aches and pains
- Severe dry cough
- A runny nose
- Pneumonia is one of the most serious complications that can occur in the elderly
How Long Does The Flu Last In the Elderly?
In the elderly, the flu can be devastating. Often time the flu leads to other complication such as pneumonia, pleural effusions, other lung problems, and even death. If an elderly person is healthy, the flu can last 1-2 weeks.
For someone who is not healthy, the flu can take a toll on them. I have seen some elderly patients take weeks to recover.
Ways To Avoid Getting the Flu
The best way that has been researched to avoid the flu is to take the flu shot.
1. Get Your Flu Shot
Becoming immunized from the flu shot causes your body to produce antibodies. These antibodies protect you from previous strains of the flu.
Just know that if there is a new strain the flu virus will not contain that strain and it will be less effective. Even though new strains are not in the vaccine, you will still be protected, or if you get the flu, it will not be as severe.
People should be vaccinated with the flu shot as early as possible when it is available in October. The earlier you get vaccinated, the earlier you will be protected.
The flu shot is available until April of the following year.
2. Clean Household Surfaces at Least Once a Day
The lifespan of the flu virus is 24 hours according to the Centers for Disease Control. If someone in your household has the flu, all household surfaces should be decontaminated with a bleach solution.
Even if a person shows no signs of the flu, they can still be contagious. All surfaces such as microwaves, stoves, refrigerators, sinks, and doorknobs should be wiped down.
3.Wash Your Hands
As a nurse, I am always washing my hands. I wash my hands before touching patients, and I wash my hands after touching a patient. You see, it has been proven that infections are spread because people are not washing their hands, or washing them properly.
The proper way to wash your hands is:
- Thoroughly wet your hands under running water
- Apply soap to your hand
- Wash your hands for at least 15 seconds making sure to clean under your nails
- Take a paper towel and dry your hands
- Use that same paper towel to turn off the faucet
4.The Importance of Using sanitizer
Germicide can help you avoid the flu. Sometimes, sinks are not available. Hand sanitizer makes a great substitute. Of course, if your hands are visibly soiled, you should find a sink as soon as possible to wash your hands. Sanitizers are easier to use because they are portable.
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5. Stay Away From People Who are Coughing and Sneezing
When people are showing sign and symptoms of the flu, it is best to stay at least 3-4 feet away from them. If it is not possible to keep your distance from people with the flu, there are ways to protect yourself.
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6. Do Not Kiss or Hug Someone With the Flu!
I know it is hard to not love on someone who is sick, but the flu is spread through respiratory droplets. Contact can occur by kissing, hugging, being in close contact, or shaking hands with people infected with the flu.
The flu virus is highly contagious. Remember the flu has an incubation period. Therefore, a person can be infected before they even have symptoms.
7. Avoid Sharing Food With People Who Have the Flu
Although the flu virus is not directly in food, when you share a plate or share utensils, you can live the virus behind and infect someone.
8. Get Sufficient Sleep
Sleep is very important to the immune system. People who are receiving chemotherapy or radiation have decreased immune systems. Your immune system plays a big role in preventing the flu.
9. Take Vitamin C and Zinc
Vitamin C and Zinc are excellent for the immune system. Research has shown that people who take a good Vitamin C and Zinc supplement have a lower rate of contracting the flu.
Emergen C is an awesome Vitamin C immune booster.
Natural Ways to Treat Flu in the Elderly
If you do happen to get the flu, although the flu has no cure, there are treatments to help the symptoms.
- Stay hydrated
- Take Tylenol or Motrin for aches and pains (If you have liver or kidney disease, please see your doctor)
- If the flu last more than one week in the elderly, see your doctor
When to See the Doctor?
You should go see a doctor if the following occur:
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent fever
- Coughing up blood
Natural Ways to Prevent the Flu in the Elderly
These are all natural ways to prevent the flu in the elderly. In fact, people of all ages can utilize these methods. The severity of the disease is similar to the seasonal flu in most patients. The swine flu is transmissible or contagious.