As people around the world continue focusing on the COVID-19 crisis, the time of year when the seasonal flu begins to make its rounds is approaching. It’s important not to overlook the safety measures designed to protect us all from the influenza virus. Compared to the severity of the coronavirus, the flu may not seem as serious of a health risk.
The reality, however, is that the seasonal flu can still be deadly for seniors. In fact, seniors comprise nearly 85 percent of influenza-related deaths and up to 70 percent of hospitalizations in a typical year.
The annual flu vaccine is considered to be the gold standard when it comes to prevention, but it’s not the only one. Lifestyle also plays a key role in determining who will—and who won’t—get bitten by the flu bug.
How to Guard Against the Seasonal Flu
- Get your flu shot: Unless you have an allergy to one of the vaccine’s ingredients or you are in another risk group, follow your doctor’s orders and get your flu shot. Most physicians suggest being vaccinated in early October to give your immunity time to build. Since outbreaks sometimes occur in mid-to-late-October, don’t wait to see how bad the flu season will be before getting your shot.
- Make self-care a priority: Keeping your immune system strong and healthy also aids in preventing the flu. Consuming a well-balanced diet and exercising almost every day for at least 30 minutes can build immunity. Getting a good night’s sleep and staying hydrated is also important. Unless your physician has limited your fluid intake, the general guideline is to drink 8 glasses of water a day.
These last few recommendations are likely ones you’ve heard frequently since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but they bear repeating:
- Keep your distance: Physically distance from people when you are in public. When flu season is peaking, try to avoid crowds as much as possible. Wear a mask to cover your nose and mouth.
- Wash frequently: Wash your hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water several times throughout the day. If you’ve been exposed to the virus, good handwashing hygiene can help protect you.
- Avoid touching your face: Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Many of us don’t realize how many times a day we do this. If you have the virus on your hands, it can be ingested into the body if you rub your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Finally, contact your physician at the first sign of the flu. There are prescription antiviral drugs that help lessen the severity of flu symptoms and may even be able to shorten the length of time you are sick. But these medications must be taken before the flu progresses too far.