Shoo the Flu: How to Avoid Being Bitten by the Bug
It will soon be the time of year when sneezing, coughing, and sore throats make their return to homes across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu season tends to spike in late October or mid-November and last until March or April.
While the flu might seem like more of an inconvenience than a serious health risk, that’s not the case for older adults. In a typical flu season, seniors comprise 70 to 85 percent of flu-related deaths and 50 to 70 percent of hospitalizations.
Getting a flu shot is one of the best preventive measures a senior can take. The same holds true for caregivers who may unknowingly spread the virus to an elder. Most healthcare professionals recommend being vaccinated in early October so the vaccine has time to work before flu season begins.
There are other steps seniors and caregivers can take that will further protect them from the influenza virus. Here are a few of the ones considered to be most effective.
5 Flu Prevention Tips for Older Adults and Caregivers
- Good hand hygiene: Good hygiene habits will help protect you from the influenza virus, and handwashing is one of the most important habits to practice. You can use the tips created by the Global Handwashing Foundation to learn easy and effective handwashing practices.
- Eat healthy: Nutrition plays a key role in boosting the immune system. Make sure you eat a well-balanced diet during flu season. Vitamin C-rich fruits, leafy green vegetables, and lean protein should be parts of your daily menu.
- Sleep well: It isn’t uncommon for caregivers to suffer from sleep deprivation, which can weaken the immune system. During flu season, it can raise your risk for catching the virus. To fight the flu, you need sleep. Most physicians say seven to nine hours each night is best.
- Avoid personal contact: While no one wants to seem unfriendly, limiting personal contact during flu season can help you lower your risk for catching the virus. Shaking hands is often seen as a common courtesy, but it also increases the odds the flu will be passed to you. Because flu symptoms aren’t always obvious, a person might not even realize they have it. A quick wave or warm smile is enough during peak flu season.
- Call the doctor: If you find yourself experiencing a few of the most common flu symptoms, such as a stuffy nose, sore throat, or fever, call the doctor right away. There are flu medications that can be prescribed when the first signs of the virus appear. They can lessen the severity of the symptoms and possibly even shorten the number of days you are sick.
These five tips, combined with an annual flu vaccine, might help you avoid being bitten by the bug this year. If your senior loved one is resisting getting a flu shot, read “Busting the 5 Most Common Myths about Flu Shots” to help them make a more informed decision.