Winter is here, and so is the dreadful cold and flu season. Getting a cold or the flu is an unpleasant experience for everyone, but especially effects seniors who may be highly susceptible to illness. Education and preventative measures are key to staying happy and healthy this winter season.
Because the flu and common cold are both viruses and therefore have the same symptoms, it’s often hard to tell the difference between the two. The seasonal flu is one of the most highly contagious illnesses and is spread by “transfer of respiratory drops”, more commonly known as coughing and sneezing. Flu symptoms include fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and a dry cough. Cold symptoms are usually less severe, and mostly consist of a runny or stuffy nose. And just like other viruses, it’s possible to be contagious before developing any symptoms or for up to five days after becoming sick.
Seniors are especially vulnerable to the cold or flu virus. While otherwise healthy adults can get rid of the flu in a few days, senior citizens are at risk for becoming much sicker and developing complications, particularly if they have chronic health conditions. A common complication of the flu is dehydration, so drinking plenty of fluids is especially important.
Now that you understand why preventing the flu is so important, here are four effective ways to minimize your chances of getting sick:
- Practice good hygiene habits. Most colds and flu are spread by direct contact. Washing your hands frequently, especially after touching doorknobs or stair rails in public places, is key to avoiding the viruses. Also, be sure to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Get a flu shot. Flu shots can be life savers, especially for seniors who typically have weaker immune systems.
- Live a healthy lifestyle. The best way to avoid a cold or flu is to stay healthy. Eating fruits and vegetables, exercising, getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night, avoiding stress and staying warm are all effective in preventing illness.
- See your doctor. Seek medical attention immediately if you believe you have the flu. And if you are diagnosed, be sure to stay inside your home to help keep others healthy.