The flu season is inevitable; it comes every year. In the early fall, you begin seeing advertisements for flu shots, which is the primary method of prevention; however, there are additional ways to help prevent becoming ill with the flu.
What This Year’s Flu Season Has Taught Us
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan, stated the number of people who will get the flu in the 2017-2018 flu season is expected to equal or surpass the number of people who got the flu in 2014-2015.
The latest statistics coming from the CDC indicate the United States is experiencing widespread flu. The overall hospitalization rate of laboratory-confirmed cases was approximately double that of the previous week. The most dominant strain is the H3N2, which has been around for 50 years and is typically the most fatal of all flu strains.
Doctors recommended avoiding the use of flu mist or the flu-nasal spray.
This year, we know that the flu shots cover either three or four strains of the flu, depending on which shot you get. This includes the H1N1, the H3N2 and a B-Victoria Lineage virus.
General Tips to Prepare for Flu Season
Seniors 65 and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu compared with younger generations because their immune defenses become weaker with age. While flu seasons vary in severity, seniors bear the greatest burden of illness from the disease.
In addition to receiving your flu shot at the beginning of the season, there are some additional steps caregivers can take to help protect themselves and the seniors they care for throughout the flu season.
Get a Flu Shot
Getting the flu can expose you or your patient to other serious medical conditions such as pneumonia, a life-threatening condition that can cause difficulty breathing and often hospitalization. This is especially devastating for those with pre-existing medical issues.
A virus that a younger person can easily fight off is often incapacitating to an older person. Getting a flu shot at the beginning of the season is perhaps the most effective safeguard a senior can take to avoid getting the flu.
Get a Pneumococcal Vaccination
Pneumonia is a serious infection for children and older adults. It is highly contagious and spreads from person-to-person by airborne droplets. There is no “pneumonia season” like there is a flu season so seniors can get a pneumococcal vaccine any time of the year. If it is flu season, they can get the pneumonia vaccine at the same time they get the flu vaccine.
Avoid Sick People
If your co-worker was out with the flu for a day or two, try not to come into close contact with them–even if they say they are over it. Many people don’t realize how long they are contagious.
Typically, a person is contagious the day before any symptoms emerge and remain contagious for up to five to seven days after they first began feeling sick.
Suppose your son-in-law was sick with the flu four days ago and is bringing your grandchildren over for a visit. There aren’t any indications that anyone is feeling sick, but the flu virus clings to the people whom it has been exposed to.
You have a wonderful visit with them, but shortly after they leave, you notice you don’t feel so well. Sure enough, you caught the flu. Most likely, the grandchildren weren’t showing any signs of illness yet. But because the immune system of seniors is weakened, you are much more susceptible to the flu.
So, if you know of someone who has the flu or has been exposed to it, it is best to avoid all contact with them for a few weeks until you can be sure there are not any traces of influenza.
Practice Good Health Habits
Wash your hands frequently, not just after you use the bathroom. The bathroom is not the only place you can get unwanted germs. In fact, many people avoid public bathrooms just for that reason. They don’t want to get sick.
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. By doing so, you prevent any airborne viruses from spreading to those around you.
Also, carry hand sanitizer with you. Every time you leave a public place, place a dime-sized amount of hand sanitizer in your palm and rub your hands together.
Use the sanitary wipes provided in public spaces. Think about it. How many times a week do you run errands and touch items that many others have touched just before you? Take grocery shopping, for example. You grab a cart, the very same cart that two toddlers who were exposed to the flu just rode in almost an hour before.
Stay Home When You Are Sick
This can be one of the hardest steps to do. After a few days of feeling ill, you may have the desire or need to get out of bed and get back to your daily routine. However, the flu can take up to a week to run its course and no longer be contagious. Even if you think you are no longer ill and you feel you can function, it is best to stay home to avoid spreading the flu.
Seek Medical Advice Quickly
Seniors are much more likely to fall ill from influenza. If you feel you are coming down with symptoms of the flu–fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, and chills–you should contact a medical professional quickly. Preferably within the first day so that an anti-viral treatment can be started.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
By drinking extra liquids, whether it’s tea or just water, the fluids will help thin out the mucus making it easier to get it out of their system. Not to mention, flooding your system with fluids can help the flu run its course a little bit faster.
Take an Extra Dose of Vitamin C
Add extra doses of vitamin C either through supplements or food. Some studies have shown that extra vitamin C can alleviate some of the symptoms of the flu and reduce the recovery time.
Sleep or Rest at a 45-Degree Angle
Ask your patient to sleep at a 45-degree angle, which will prevent the mucus from gathering in the sinus cavities which could lead to further infection. This position can also help reduce inflammation.