Eldercare Series: Protecting Your Elder from the Flu

Did you know that elders 65+ are the most affected group when it comes to influenza, aka the flu? The effects of aging make it easier for this group to catch it and also increases the likelihood that they will have complications from the virus. Small children and those with a weakened immune system are also considered high risk.

While the flu typically lasts seven to ten days, it can hang on longer in the elderly. This virus affects the nose, throat, and lungs, and for some can be life threatening. It’s not uncommon for this virus to lead to pneumonia and/or require hospitalization. With flu season just around the corner, it’s time to learn the symptoms of this deadly virus and what you can do to protect your elder.

An Ounce of Prevention…

While you can’t eliminate the chances of you or your loved ones getting sick, there are things that you can do to reduce the odds:

  • Keep your family safe by encouraging everyone to wash their hands frequently, especially before meals and after using the restroom.
  • Teach everyone to cough and sneeze into the bend of their arm, and not onto their hands.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces such as door handles, phones, and remotes frequently.
  • Eat your veggies, get enough sleep, and stay active! The healthier your immune system, the better it is at fighting off all types viruses.
  • Get vaccinated! The Government of Canada website states that those six months of age and older should get a flu shot annually. It’s important not to skip a year, because the protection offered by the shot wears off, and each year the vaccine formula is updated to fight the current strain of the virus. Last year’s shot may not protect you from this year’s strain of the virus.

Know the Symptoms

This virus is often confused with a cold, but the common cold usually doesn’t impact the lungs and a person with a cold typically doesn’t get a fever. Symptoms usually show up one to four days after someone is exposed to the virus. The first symptoms of the flu can include:

As the virus progresses other symptoms may appear:

  • Stomach ache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

While some people may only show a few of the symptoms listed above, others may have every single symptom.

When to Call the Doctor

You know how your loved one acts, so if you feel that something is wrong it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you get your loved one into the doctor within the first 48 hours after flu symptoms appear and they test positive for the virus, there may be medicines available that will reduce both the symptoms and duration of the virus.

The following symptoms should never be ignored and require immediate medical attention:

  • Symptoms of dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Shortness of breath of breathing difficulties
  • Chest pain
  • The skin turning a bluish tint
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Coughing up bloody mucus
  • Severe or prolonged vomiting
  • A high fever lasting longer than three days
  • Low blood pressure

How do you protect your loved ones from influenza? Do you normally get your elder vaccinated? If you have a tip we missed on keeping elders safe this flu season please let us know. We love reading your comments, and your comments could help others!

Photo courtesy of Daniel Paquet on Flickr.

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