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Flu Risks and Prevention for Seniors

When flu season is in full swing and you’re a caregiver for a senior, this is something that you are going to want to pay close attention too. Not only are seniors at a higher risk for contracting the flu due to weaker immune systems, but they also face life-threatening complications if they do end up catching it. In this brief article, we will be sharing some of the flu risks and also prevention tips that you need to be ready and prepared to fight back this flu season.

What are the Signs?

The flu in seniors is quite commonly misdiagnosed, as the typical symptoms of the flu don’t necessarily develop in seniors and therefore healthcare providers tend to not test seniors for it. In fact, according to one recent study, 26% of seniors who were hospitalized for the flu, did not exhibit any type of flu-like symptoms. This often leads to missed or a delayed diagnosis and that can have very scary implications on the health of the senior—especially if they already suffer from any type of chronic illness. 

Besides a high fever, sore throat and cough, some other flu-symptoms in seniors can also include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Delirium
  • Worsening of chronic lung or heart conditions
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • General feeling of discomfort or “malaise”

It is highly recommended that you see your doctor or healthcare professional immediately if you believe that you or your loved one may have the flu. They will be able to provide you a proper flu-diagnosis by way of taking a simple swab sample on the back of the throat or nose—unless they are able to provide you with diagnosis on your physical symptoms alone. Misdiagnosis or ignoring symptoms of the flu can lead to dehydration, secondary infections, pneumonia, and even death. It’s also important to identify it quickly to avoid spreading it to others.

Get a Flu Shot

It really is of no great surprise that the best method to combat against the flu is to get a flu shot. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has noted that flu shots reduce the risk of developing the flu by at lease 40-60%. Flu vaccines are adjusted year-to-year in order to better be able to protect against the years most recent strain of flu virus. Both caregivers and seniors should get vaccinated against the flu every year. Even if you or your loved one develops the flu after getting the flu shot, the effects of the illness will be less severe on your immune system.

Additional Tips

In addition to getting a flu vaccination, other tips you may want to implement in order to avoid the flu are:

  • Wash your hands – this is the #1 way to prevent getting sick
  • Avoid direct contact with individuals who are already sick
  • Wear gloves and masks if you must be near someone with the flu
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Keep personal areas clean and disinfected
  • Boost the immunity with a healthy diet and Vitamin C
  • Get plenty of rest at the onset of feeling signs of illness
  • Limit nose, mouth, and eye contact
  • Humidifiers can ease respiratory symptoms and reduce spreading

Treating the Flu

Unfortunately, there really is not a lot you can do to feel better faster when it comes to the flu virus. Be sure to get plenty of rest and relaxation, as well as plenty of water and other fluids to stave off getting dehydrated. Your doctor or healthcare provider may also prescribe antiviral medications to possibly help shorten your flu, and you can always take over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help ward off body aches as well.

There are several red flag symptoms whereby if you or your loved one experiences them in addition to having the flu, you must be sure to seek out medical attention as soon as possible. These symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Confusion
  • Severe vomiting
  • Feeling better and suddenly feeling worse
  • Sudden onset of dizziness
  • Swollen throat or mouth

The flu can be scary, painful, and difficult to get through, however, with a little planning and preparation, you can fight back against the flu and take measures into your own hands to ensure that even if you do end up getting the flu, your body will be far better to combat against it so that you will be feeling far better, much faster!

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