October 24th, 2012 at 10:00 am
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How elders and caregivers can fight the flu

by Dorian Martin

It’s that season! How do I know? First of all, my friends are already complaining that they’re seeing Christmas decorations in the stores, even though we’re still in October. Others are savoring pumpkin spice lattes. Football season is well underway. And if you need another indicator, just check the signs at your local pharmacies: “Flu Shots Available Here.”

It’s really important for elders and their caregivers to be vaccinated. People who are older than 65 have a weakened immune system and are more susceptible to the flu, reports Flu.gov, a website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Seniors who come down with the flu may face serious health consequences, including death. Seniors account for most flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations, so elders who do contract the flu should see their physicians as soon as possible.

Say “no” to the flu and “yes” to the shot

So what is the flu shot? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu shot is a vaccine that includes a killed virus and is normally given with a needle in the arm. This vaccine contains three seasonal influenza strains that researchers have determined should be the most common during the upcoming flu season.

The different kinds of flu shots include the regular flu shot and a high-dose flu shot for people who are 65 years of age and older. There is also an intradermal flu shot for people aged 18 to 64 — it is administered with a small needle and injected in the skin. Healthy people who are between 2 and 49 years old can get a nasal spray flu vaccine, but pregnant women should not be given this form of the immunization.

The “Who’s at Risk” section on Flu.gov shows who should get flu shots, including:

  • Those with specific medical conditions (asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease)
  • People with disabilities
  • Pregnant women
  • Seniors (persons aged 65 and older)
  • Those who live with or care for people who are considered at high risk for the flu

The Flu.Gov website recommends that seniors also get the pneumococcal vaccine to protect them against pneumonia.

How to fight bad bugs

Elders and caregivers should take steps like these to avoid germs that can lead to flu:

  1. Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  2. Avoid touching your nose, eyes or mouth since germs can spread this way.
  3. Try to avoid close contact with people who are sick with the flu.
  4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle including exercising, eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of fluids, getting enough sleep and keeping stress levels low.
  5. Make sure to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then dispose of the used tissue in the trash after you use it.
  6. If you do end up sick with flu-like illness, stay home (and away from an elder) for at least 24 hours until your fever breaks.

The article Seniors and infection control suggests other tips on protecting elders from health risks like communicable diseases.

Posted in Caregiving, Health | 1 Comment »
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One Response to “How elders and caregivers can fight the flu”

  1. Sarah Foster

    Thank you for the wonderful tips on making it through this year’s cold and flu season (good practices for year-round healthiness).

    Good to note as well is while getting the annual flu shot may not completely prevent you from getting the flu, it may significantly reduce the symptoms. Ultimately a win.

    Regardless, everyone should get a flu shot and especially those who are around elders and their caregivers.

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