Seniors and caregivers are vulnerable to the flu
The cold and flu season is upon us again. Unfortunately, seniors and caregivers are two of the most likely groups of people to get sick.
Older adults have weaker immune systems and so do most caregivers (due to lack of sleep and chronic stress). And because you spend a lot of time together, you’re more likely to pass germs back and forth.
Even so, there’s still a lot that you can do to reduce the chances that you or your older adult will get sick and to reduce the length or severity of an illness.
Basically, the goal is to boost the immune system and reduce exposure to germs.
We share 10 tips for avoiding the flu and in case you or your older adult gets sick, we’ve got 6 tips that prevent serious flu complications and ease symptoms.
10 cold and flu prevention tips reduce risk for seniors and caregivers
1. Get the flu vaccine
Getting a flu shot reduces the risk of getting the flu. It also reduces the severity of the illness and protects against complications – both especially important for seniors..
And when you get a flu shot, you reduce the risk that you’ll get sick and infect your older adult.
The best time to get a flu shot is from October through November, but experts say that it’s still useful to get the shot even if it’s later in the flu season.
2. Wash or sanitize hands thoroughly and often
Frequently hand washing with regular soap is an effective way to get rid of cold and flu germs.
Using regular soap is fine because rubbing the hands together for at least 20 seconds is what eliminates germs – long enough to sing the Happy Birthday song twice. Make sure to clean under the nails, backs of hands, between fingers, and wrists.
If you can’t get to soap and water often enough, use hand sanitizer to kill cold and flu germs. This may be a good option for older adults who can’t easily get up to wash their hands.
3. Exercise regularly
Moderate exercise boosts the immune system and could reduce risk of a cold by a third.
4. Avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth
We often touch our faces without thinking, which is a common way for cold and flu germs to enter the body.
To reduce the risk of getting sick, minimize touching of the face.
5. Clean the environment to eliminate germs
Try to keep the environment as germ-free as possible. That means using disinfectant when cleaning, especially in the bathroom and kitchen.
When cleaning, pay special attention to germ hot spots like doorknobs, light switches, and kitchen and bathroom counters.
And, make sure to disinfect cleaning sponges and rags (a breeding ground for germs) by changing them frequently, soaking in bleach, microwaving for 1 minute, or running through the dishwasher.
In an outside workplace, wash your hands after touching communal office spaces and regularly disinfect your own work area.
6. Sanitize your mobile devices
Something that many people forget is how dirty and germ-filled their mobile device is.
Clean it regularly with sanitizing wipes or rubbing alcohol – being careful not to wet the electronics.
7. Stay away from people who are sick
It might sound obvious, but it’s worth repeating: keep your distance from people who are sick.
If you need to be around a sick person, limit your contact and avoid unnecessary touching like shaking hands or hugging.
8. Avoid crowds and unnecessary travel
Try to avoid being in large groups of people, especially in poorly-ventilated spaces. That increases the chance of catching a cold or flu from an infected person.
9. Drink plenty of liquids
Drinking plenty of liquids, especially plain water or hot tea, helps the nasal passages stay moist and trap germs before they can spread into the body.
10. Get added Vitamin C and protein through nutritious foods
Some studies have shown that a little extra Vitamin C (but not too much) can reduce the risk of getting sick.
It’s best to get it through food, but a 200 mg supplement also works. But first, check with the doctor to be sure that the supplement would be safe for your older adult.
Not getting enough protein can also lower the immune response, so try to add fish, eggs, or yogurt to your and your older adult’s diets.
6 tips to prevent flu complications and ease symptoms
Despite the best efforts, people can still get sick with the flu. Here are some tips to protect seniors from deadly complications and make symptoms more bearable.
1. Visit the doctor ASAP for prescription antiviral medication
Getting antiviral drugs as soon as possible can make the flu milder and prevent serious flu complications.
This is especially important for older adults. It could mean the difference between just having the flu or being hospitalized with severe pneumonia.
Flu antiviral drugs typically work best if they’re started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful – especially for seniors because they’re at such high risk of complications.
Don’t hesitate to call the doctor if you or your older adult get sick, even if you’re not 100% sure it’s the flu – they can help with the diagnosis.
2. Avoid spreading the flu
You may be contagious up to 5 or more days after symptoms appear.
Do your best to protect others while you are sick by washing your hands frequently, coughing or sneezing into a tissue and immediately throwing it away, and keeping your distance.
3. Use a humidifier
Moist air helps soothe sore throats and hacking coughs.
4. Drink chicken soup
This home remedy really does work. Steam opens nasal passages, the broth soothes the throat, and the soup actually helps infection-fighting white blood cells do a better job.
5. Drink extra liquids
Extra fluids help thin out the mucous and makes it easier to get it out of your system.
6. Rest or sleep at a 45 degree angle
Lying down causes mucous to gather in sinus cavities, which is unpleasant and could also lead to further infection.
Resting or sleeping at an angle helps prevent this and also reduces inflammation.
Recommended for you:
- 5 Reasons Why a Flu Shot for Seniors Is Essential
- Prevent Serious Illness with Recommended Vaccines for Seniors
- Medications That Worsen Dementia and Increase Dementia Risk: Anticholinergics
By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Lake Norman Pulmonary & Sleep