The influenza virus poses a serious health risk to seniors. According to the CDC, in a typical flu season, older adults account for 70 to 90 percent of flu-related deaths and 50 to 70 percent of hospital influenza admissions. Taking steps to avoid it is crucial.
Receiving the vaccine before the start of flu season is the first step to avoid being bitten by the bug. Taking additional precautions to stay healthy or help an older loved one avoid the flu are necessary, too.
4 Tips to Help a Senior Avoid the Flu
- Take care of yourself: A healthy immune system is one of the best ways to shoo the flu. Exercising, consuming a well-balanced diet, and getting a good night’s rest are all important during flu season. Since chronic stress can also negatively impact the immune system, it’s crucial to learn how to better manage it. Meditation, walking, gardening, and swimming are senior-friendly ways to manage stress.
- Wash your hands: The flu virus can linger on door handles, handrails, and other public places. It can be easily transferred when you come in contact with it. Washing your hands with hot, soapy water lowers your risk for catching the bug. Experts recommend washing your hands long enough to silently sing a full chorus of Yankee Doodle Dandy. When you will be in public without access to soap and water, carry a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Limit close contact: Because the influenza virus is so contagious, try to limit close contact with others during flu season. People might not know they are coming down with the bug when they hug you or shake your hand. If you aren’t comfortable explaining that you are trying to limit your exposure, opt for a quick fist bump or air hug instead.
- Avoid touching your nose and mouth: Most people don’t realize how often they touch their face. During flu season, you run the risk of transferring the virus from your hand to your mouth or nose if you’ve been exposed. By making a conscious effort not to touch your face, you may reduce your risk of contracting the flu.
Call the Doctor at the First Sign of Flu
Despite your best attempts at prevention, you might find yourself or an older loved one coming down with the flu. Prescription antiviral drugs may help lessen the severity of flu symptoms and shorten the amount of time you are sick. The catch is they should be taken during the earliest stages of the flu. That’s why it is key to call your or your senior loved one’s physician when the first symptom appears.