By: Darleen Mahoney
As the hot days of summer fade away and the leaves begin to change and the weather gets crisp, the season of fall is most welcome. Fall is not the only season that arrives in October, but a most unwelcoming season arrives as well…. flu season. Flu season is most active between October thru May. As this season is upon us, its important to be proactive in flu prevention, symptoms and treatment. The flu season is not the only season you want to experience, but the one you want to avoid.
While a flu diagnosis is serious regardless of age, a flu diagnosis in Seniors carries greater risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that adults 65 and older are at greater risk of complications from the flu because they may have weakened immune systems. The CDC estimates that between 70%-85% of seasonal flu-related deaths and 54%-70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in those over the age of 65.
A flu vaccine is the best option in flu prevention. It is recommended that Seniors and their caregivers receive the flu shot every year. The best time to get a flu shot is October thru November, so mark your calendars! The CDC reports that the flu vaccination may reduce the risk of getting the flu by 40-60%. The CDC recommends that even Seniors with weakened immune systems receive the vaccines, the vaccine can still protect against the illness and can weaken the flu strain if the immune suppressed Senior comes in contact with the flu virus.
Other ways to avoid getting the flu:
- Washing hands and wrists/ Hand sanitizer when more convenient
- Avoiding people who are sick
- Get plenty of rest
- Eat healthy, boost immunity
- Getting exercise-this could reduce your risk by a third
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth-this is how the germs enter the body
- Sanitize your Mobile devices
- Adding Vitamin C-Boost your immune system
The onset of flu symptoms can happen very quickly, some people developing symptoms one to four days after exposure to the virus. Seniors may develop the flu and their symptoms look very different than typical flu patients. Therefore, Seniors who have the flu are misdiagnosed or delayed in their diagnosis and therefore can progress into a more serious health problem. Most flu symptoms include a fever over 100 degrees, many Seniors with the flu do not have a fever, cough, or a sore throat.
Symptoms in a Senior may include:
- General discomfort, knowing something is clearly wrong
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Abdominal Pain
- Flu-like symptoms that get better and then worse
- Swollen mouth/throat
If you’re over the age of 65 and experience any of these symptoms, visit your physician right away to reduce the potential risk of a flu diagnosis. If you see your doctor within the first 48 hours, your doctor may prescribe you an antiviral medication. When taken at the onset of the flu, this medication can reduce the symptoms and the severity of your illness.