It’s all over the news and impacting a staggering number of Americans. This year’s flu strain is especially virulent, putting everyone at risk but particularly those age 65 and older. Although there is a lot of focus on the pediatric risk from influenza this year, the risk to seniors is even greater as our immune defenses weaken with age. It is estimated that between 71 and 85 percent of flu-related deaths occur in those 65 and older.
Even though it is recommended to receive the flu vaccine by the end of October, it is not too late to get it now. The CDC recommends that those 65 and older receive the “high dose” vaccine, which contains four times the antigen as the regular flu shot and can reduce influenza infection by 24% as compared to the regular shot.
Know your flu facts.
Remember: the flu shot cannot give you the flu. Many people have this misconception, so it is important to note that although you may develop mild side effects for a day or two following the injection, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. These side effects include redness, swelling and pain at the injection site, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.
Limit exposure & act fast if symptoms arise.
Aside from getting the flu vaccine, there are many things you can do to limit your exposure. Practice good health habits by staying away from those who are sick, wash your hands often and cover your cough. If a senior loved one does develop flu symptoms, it will be important to see his or her physician or make a visit to the hospital if the symptoms are severe. Those over age 65 are at high risk for developing complications. Your loved one’s physician will most likely begin the senior on antiviral medication, which is very beneficial for reducing risk of complication, especially when the medication is started within the first two days of illness.
Additionally, check with your loved one’s physician to ensure he or she is up to date with the pneumococcal vaccine. This will protect against not only pneumonia, but also meningitis and infections of the blood. Developing pneumonia while a senior is sick with the flu is a serious complication and can place him or her at risk for serious illness or even death.
Know the symptoms of the flu so you can monitor for possible infection.
The symptoms of the flu may include some or all of the following:
It’s that time again friends…there is a little nip in the air, the days are shorter, and in those quiet concert halls and movie theaters, it’s hard to miss the sneezing, coughing and hacking that breaks the silence of the season.
Let’s face it: most of us don’t escape this season without a bug or two. Because we are in the business of protecting others from illness, we believe it’s our duty at Nightingale Homecare to remind all of you that the same germ that may result in a case of the sniffles to us could easily develop into a life-threatening illness to an elder vulnerable adult.
Should you come down with the flu or other bug, follow these tips:
Stay home and don’t share!
If you have been running a fever, stay home for a minimum of 24 hours after your fever has broken.
If you need food or medicines, ask others who are healthy to bring them to you rather than going to the store yourself.
If you must go out into the public, wear a surgical mask. And, if you absolutely must attend work or school, be sure to sanitize your desk frequently, stick to a small, defined area when possible, and avoid contact with others. Wear a surgical mask for all face-to-face contact.
Do not share eating utensils, drinking glasses, towels or other personal items. Keep these items away from others and out of their reach. If you must share food preparation areas and bathrooms, make certain all the areas you have touched are subsequently cleaned.
Cover your coughs, sniffles…. and words?
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Even when infected people are speaking to others, those folks on the other side of the conversation are at risk! Remember miniscule droplets from your sneeze, cough, and words, get into the air and are inhaled by people nearby. Those people within three feet can easily be infected if you don’t cover your mouth and nose.
If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze into the crook of your elbow to avoid spreading germs to everything you touch with your hands.
Put your used tissues in a wastebasket and wash your hands.
Keep your hands clean.
Wash your hands with soap and water often and for at least 20 seconds. (Hum “Happy Birthday” twice.) Dry with a clean towel. Alternatively, you may use an alcohol based hand sanitizer, but limit this, as this can dry your hands out. Remember wash your hands:
After wiping or blowing your nose or coughing or sneezing
After touching your nose, mouth or face
After touching handrails, doorknobs, telephones or other things handled by many people
Before and after eating or drinking
After using the bathroom
After being in contact with or being near someone who is ill
Before handling food, especially ready-to-eat foods like salads and sandwiches
After touching anything “dirty”: laundry, garbage, surfaces, etc.
Combating the spread of germs can seem like a war zone during cold and flu season. Challenge yourself by using these tips described above to diligently prevent illness, and if you do become ill, vow to protect others, especially the vulnerable young and elderly. Contact Nightingale Homecare at 602-504-1555 for more tips on helping seniors stay healthy and well cared for at home, during flu season and in the year to come!
A Nightingale representative would be happy to answer your questions or help you arrange for home care that is custom-fit to your needs.