Health & Wellness

Flu Season: A Guide for Seniors to Prevent and Ease Symptoms

October 17th, 2023

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Flu season hits every year as the leaves change color and temperatures drop in Autumn. While the flu can affect people of all ages, it poses a particular risk to seniors. As we age, our immune systems become less robust, making us more vulnerable to infections like the influenza virus. At CRISTA Senior Living, we work hard to ensure our residents stay healthy in order to prevent them from getting sick and helping recover quickly should the flu strike.

Understanding the Flu

The flu, short for influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can lead to a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, and even death in some cases. Seniors are at a higher risk of experiencing severe complications from the flu due to weakened immune systems and other age-related factors.

While each flu season differs in severity, during most seasons, people 65 years and older bear the greatest burden of disease. The National Council on Aging estimates that 70-85% of seasonal influenza-related deaths and 50-70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in older adults.

Flu Symptoms in Seniors

It’s crucial for seniors and their caregivers to recognize the signs and symptoms of the flu. Common influenza virus symptoms in seniors may include:

  • High fever
  • Cough and sore throat
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Body aches and chills
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion or altered mental state

Prevention of the Flu Is Key

Preventing the flu is the first line of defense for seniors. Here are some essential steps seniors can take to reduce their risk of getting the virus:

Get Vaccinated: Annual flu vaccinations are highly recommended for seniors. The flu vaccine helps the body develop immunity to specific influenza virus strains. It’s crucial to get vaccinated before flu season begins, typically in the fall.

Practice Good Hand Hygiene: Seniors should wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in public spaces or touching common surfaces. Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is a convenient alternative when soap and water are unavailable.

Avoid Close Contac: Seniors should avoid close contact with individuals who are sick and stay away from crowded places, especially during flu outbreaks.

Cover Coughs and Sneezes: Seniors should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or their elbow when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.

Clean and Disinfect: Seniors should regularly clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces in their living spaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, and countertops. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to disinfect your mobile devices.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Eating a balanced diet, staying physically active, getting enough sleep, and managing stress can help strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of illness.

Easing Flu Symptoms

Despite their best efforts, people can still get sick with the influenza virus. If you do, protect yourself from a horrible case of it by following this advice from DailyCare.

  • Visit the doctor ASAP for prescription antiviral medication to prevent it from developing into pneumonia. Typically, flu antiviral drugs work best when you start them within two days of getting sick.
  • Avoid spreading the flu by isolating yourself from other people for five days or longer.
  • Use a humidifier. Moist air helps soothe sore throats and hacking coughs.
  • Drink chicken soup — nature’s penicillin! This home remedy really does work. Steam opens nasal passages, the broth soothes the throat, and the soup helps infection-fighting white blood cells do a better job.
  • Drink extra liquids to thin out your mucous and make it easier to get it out of your system.
  • Rest or sleep at a 45-degree angle to prevent further infection from mucous in your sinus cavities and reduce inflammation.

Seeking Medical Care for the Flu

If a senior develops influenza-like symptoms, it’s crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Living in a senior living community like CRISTA Senior Living in Shoreline or Crista Shores in Silverdale means seniors have instant access to medical care when they need it. This is vital because the flu can progress rapidly in seniors, leading to complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening. Early antiviral treatment prescribed by a healthcare provider can help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.

Flu season can be challenging for seniors, but with the right precautions, they can reduce their risk of getting sick and experiencing severe complications. Annual flu vaccinations, good hygiene practices, and seeking medical care when needed are essential steps in protecting senior health during flu season. Seniors, along with their caregivers and loved ones, should stay informed and vigilant to ensure a safe and healthy winter season.

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What People Are Saying …

I would like to commend Cristwood Park staff on their efforts to protect themselves and their residents from COVID. It’s been a concern of ours since last March and we have been relieved to see so few cases in the Cristwood Park community. I would like to thank the staff and leadership for their diligence in maintaining good protocols throughout this pandemic.

CWP Family Member

CRISTA has been a warm, friendly atmosphere to be a part of these past two years. It encourages friendships that encourage a pleasant living environment.

Marty Victor, CWP

Exceptional personalized holistic care. Helps keep Mom’s mind active and she flourishes with the nurturing care. Especially of value currently given the COVID restrictions. We are genuinely pleased with our mom's care.

Resident's Daughter, Memory Care

Thinking back on all the great care you and your team have given her at CRISTA, we thank you for all that. I am sure it made a difference in the quality of her life.

I appreciate the personal relationship I have with the staff and the good communication they give me.

I am so stunned by all the amazing people who live at CRISTA. The depth of their stories, their experiences are so powerful. They are fascinating and I learn something new every day! Such a wealth of intellect, experiences, and fun loving people. I love living here.

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