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Flu Season Precautions for the Elderly

fluThe flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the virus, influenza, which attacks the body in the upper and lower respiratory tract. It is highly contagious and generally affects groups of people spending time in close contact in places like schools, offices and nursing homes. Flu season typically occurs from the month of November to March.

The symptoms of the flu are similar to those of the common cold; however, the flu is much worse. While a cold may slow you down, the flu may not even allow you to get out of bed.  This can be especially true for those aged 65 years or older.  While the average adult might be stuck in bed with aches and pains for a few days, older adults find themselves at increased risks for falls, injuries, and complications. It is critical that you know the symptoms of influenza and its complications to keep the flu season from turning deadly.

Signs and Symptoms of the Flu

It is important for you and your senior loved one to know the signs and symptoms you should be looking for so that you can prevent the flu from becoming deadly. Flu symptoms will start 1 to 4 days after being infected. These symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • A runny nose or congestion
  • Body aches or pain
  • Headaches

Usually, only children will have stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, but it is possible for adults to show these symptoms as well.

Complications of the Flu in the Elderly

Older adults suffer the most serious complications and are more likely to be hospitalized or die from the flu. Around 90 percent of flu-related deaths that occur are in people over the age of 65. Over half of the people that have to be hospitalized because of the flu are also in this age group.

Pneumonia is one of the most common and most serious flu complications and is also one of the top ten leading causes of death among the elderly. Pneumonia can quickly become severe in adults that can’t fight it off. Pneumonia causes a fluid buildup in the lungs, reducing oxygen supply to the lungs and other tissues in the body.

It is important to know the signs of pneumonia if your elder loved one has the flu so that if they begin to develop it, you can catch it early. The signs of bacterial pneumonia were already described, but viral pneumonia has some different symptoms including:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • A dry cough that produces no phlegm or a cough that produces small amounts of white or clear phlegm
  • Muscle pain
  • Exhaustion

Can You Prevent the Flu?

Yes. The best way to prevent it is to get an annual flu vaccine. Getting the shot is a smart idea. It makes a big difference in hospitalization and death rates among older adults who live at home and those in nursing homes. A high-dose flu vaccine are made just for seniors. It has four times as much active ingredient as a regular flu shot to provide a better immune response in older people. It’s recommended for people i65 and older, if it’s available.

If you or your senior loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms with the flu, see your doctor immediately.

If you or a loved one needs help with getting to the doctors or getting a flu shot please call Relevar Home Care at (586) 493-7677, we service many counties such as Macomb and Lapeer.