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Helpful Tips to Stay Well during Cold and Flu Season

Colder temperatures and longer nights signal more than the coming of winter. They also signal the start of flu season. And this year, there’s the additional concern about rising COVID-19 cases, which could cause a so-called “twindemic” of both the flu and the coronavirus. Because seniors tend to have weaker immune systems, cold and flu prevention in the elderly is more important than ever for both older adults and their caregivers. 
This post will look at ways to support senior health while diminishing the risk of cold- and flu- causing germs.

10 Tips for avoiding cold and the flu this season.

  • Get a flu shot: The vaccine can help reduce the risk of getting the flu. If you or your loved one happens to contract the flu, it can also lessen its severity and protect against complications. The best time to get a flu shot is October through November, but it’s still useful to get one even if it’s later in the flu season.
  • Wash your hands: Frequent hand-washing with soap is the most effective way to get rid of cold and flu germs. Be sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (long enough to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice) and clean under your nails, back of hands, wrists, and between fingers.
  • Get regular exercise: According to Harvard University, moderate exercise can help boost the immune system. Even if you or your loved one doesn’t  have a lot of time, any amount of regular exercise will help.
  • Don’t touch your face: Cold and flu germs can enter the body through your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wear a mask: Cold, flu and coronavirus are transmitted through water droplets in exhalations, sneezes and coughs. Wearing a mask can help prevent contracting the virus. Also, if you have a cold, flu, or COVID-19, wearing a mask around vulnerable populations or in public can prevent further spread of the virus.
  • Clean your house: While regular hand washing will take care of most germ spreading, it may also help to periodically clean your bathroom and kitchen with disinfectant. Also clean doorknobs and light switches. Sponges and rags should be changed frequently and disinfected by soaking them in bleach, microwaving for one minute, or running through the dishwasher. You can also use paper towels.
  • Clean your phone: Many people forget how dirty and germ-filled their mobile device is. Clean it regularly with sanitizing wipes or rubbing alcohol but be careful not to wet the electronics.
  • Avoid sick people: Keep your distance from people who are sick. If you become sick, try to limit your physical contact with others. Wash your hands regularly and cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid crowds and unnecessary travel: Being in a large group of people, especially in poorly ventilated spaces, can increase your chance of coming into contact with someone who has been infected.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of liquids, especially plain water or hot tea, to keep your nasal passages moist, allowing them to trap germs before they can spread into your body.
  • Eat healthy: Studies have shown that a little extra Vitamin C can reduce the risk of getting sick. And not getting enough protein can also lower the immune response, so try to prepare meals with fish, eggs, yogurt and other forms of protein.

Why you should get a flu shot. 

An important part of flu prevention in the elderly is an annual flu shot. With rare exceptions, everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine. Factors that can determine if you should get a particular vaccine include your age, current and past health, and any relevant allergies. If you have concerns or have had problems in the past, you should talk with your doctor. Information is also available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC constantly monitors changing strains of influenza around the world. They use this data to develop flu vaccines months before flu season starts to protect against the most likely strains to reach the US. In most years, the flu shot is 40% to 60% effective. If you do happen to get the flu, your symptoms are likely to be milder, because vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness or death.
Remember, it’s important to get vaccinated before flu season starts, because it takes about two weeks for the antibodies that protect against the flu to develop in your body. 

How to tell if you have the flu.

To help determine if you or a loved one has the flu, the CDC says watch  for some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (Note: Not everyone who gets the flu will have a fever.)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting or diarrhea  (Note: This is more common in children than adults.)

You should also watch for these flu or cold complications. If you see any of the symptoms listed below, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve, but then return with fever and worse cough

Dealing with cold and flu symptoms.

Ideally you won’t catch a cold or flu at all. But if you or your loved one becomes sick, here are suggestions for dealing with the effects:

  • Try antiviral medication: At the first sign of symptoms, consult with your loved one’s doctor to see if they can prescribe antiviral drugs to make the flu milder and prevent serious complications. It could be the difference between just having the flu or being hospitalized with severe pneumonia. Flu antiviral drugs typically work best if they’re started within two days of getting sick. But for older adults who are at a high risk of complications, starting them later can still be helpful.
  • Stop the spread: At the first sign of flu symptoms, you could be contagious for up to five days. To protect others, frequently wash your hands, cough or sneeze into a tissue and immediately throw it away, and keep your distance.
  • Use a humidifier: Moist air helps soothe sore throats and hacking coughs.
  • Eat chicken soup: It’s not just an old wives’ tale; chicken soup really does work. The steam opens nasal passages, the broth soothes the throat, and it actually helps infection-fighting white blood cells do a better job.
  • Drink plenty of liquids: Extra fluids help thin out the mucus and make it easier to get it out of your system.
  • Sleep at an angle: Lying down at a 45-degree angle helps keep mucus from gathering in sinus cavities, which is unpleasant and could also lead to further infection. Sleeping at an angle also reduces inflammation.

A lifestyle focused on health and wellness.

At Lakewood, our lifestyle features a variety of wellness programs as well as a full continuum of on-site health care. To learn more about our lifestyle with a smart plan for the future, fill out our contact form.