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How will you avoid the flu this season?

Senior View column
By: By Becca Danielsen, RN For The News Messenger
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 Get a flu shot! 

 

The No. 1 way to avoid the flu is to get a flu shot.

It’s just plain smart to get a flu shot every cold and flu season. It reduces the risk of hospitalization, pneumonia and even death.

If you’re over 65, you are automatically at a higher risk.  Seasonal flu viruses change each year so you need a new flu shot annually.

Do you have some underlying health concerns or high-risk conditions such as asthma or heart disease?  Then you’re at even greater risk.  

How can you tell if you have the flu? 

 

Unlike symptoms of a cold, flu symptoms come on suddenly.  For seniors, they may include fever, headache, generalized weakness, fatigue or even extreme exhaustion, general aches, dry cough, chest discomfort, watery discharge from your nose, and a sore throat, as well as disorientation, confusion and loss of balance that can lead to a fall!  

If you’re an older adult, don’t leave home if you have flu-like symptoms unless recommended by your doctor and best to get a ride until your symptoms clear up.

 

The flu is not kind to older adults, often leading to a flare-up or worsening of existing conditions, such as sinus infections, dehydration, urinary tract infections (UTI), chronic conditions, cognitive impairment and lack of mobility, which can cause muscle weakening and overall decline in ideal health. 

Older adults also have an increased risk of developing pneumonia, which is a complication of the flu, so talk to your doctor about getting the pneumococcal vaccine.

 

If you do get sick, it’s important to see your doctor right away to get a jump on complications and get treatment started. Heart disease and lung conditions, including emphysema and asthma, are especially critical to monitor in the older adult with the flu.

You don’t want to get the flu this fall so what is your plan?

If you’ve already gotten your flu shot, then what else can you do to protect yourself? It’s important to arm yourself with some knowledge:

 

1)      First of all, germs are everywhere so stop touching your face, mouth, eyes and nose.

 

2)      Next, wash your hands often and use lots of soap, especially during the cold and flu season.  Again, germs are just waiting there to be transferred to their favorite locations, such as eyes, hands and nose to make you sick.   

 

3)      Wipe down surfaces that may have come in contact with germs. Cell phones, keys, car surfaces, remote controls, handles, light switches, shopping carts, even purse handles and bottoms need a wipe down.

 

4)      One sure way to avoid the flu is to avoid close contact with anyone who is sick. Older adults should avoid crowds and public places during the flu season.

 

More tips to stay healthy during flu season: 

 

1)  Change your toothbrushes often, at least every three months and when you get sick.

2)  Use those complimentary hand wipes for the carts at the store.

3)  Use a paper towel to turn on the water faucet in a public restroom.

4)  Use the paper towel you’re drying your hands with to open the door and then discard it.

5)  Don’t share cups or cutlery with family members while they are sick.

6)  Wipe doorknobs often with anti-bacterial wipes.

 

Why does being older than 65 and getting the flu put me at risk?

 

The immune system weakens as you age, so being 65 or over puts you at a big risk. Because you are more susceptible, seasonal flu can result in hospitalization and even death. Anti-viral meds such as Teraflu and Relenza may be recommended by your doctor and are most effective when given within 48 hours of symptoms showing up.

 

Remember, older adults are especially vulnerable. I hope you all avoid the flu this season. And don’t forget, chicken soup really does work!

 

Becca Danielsen RN owns and operates “Personal Medication Management,” a weekly medication management, monitoring and assessment service. She can be reached at 844-8914. Visit her website at PMMBeccaRN.com.