Getting the flu can be one of the worst experiences, regardless of your age or health condition. However, the risks of flu complications increase significantly in elderly people. According to a report released from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every year more than 200,000 people are hospitalized due to seasonal flu, and about 36,000 die from flu complications.
Elderly people (65 years and older) are at a greater risk of contracting flu and eventually developing health complications than young adults because, with age, their immune system becomes weaker. In fact, most seasonal flu-related deaths and hospitalizations have occurred in people who were 65 years+.
How Seasonal Flu Spreads in Senior Adults
Seasonal flu is one of the most contagious diseases. It is basically a droplet infection; that is, spread by sneezing and coughing. For instance, any infected person might touch objects such as a telephone, door knobs, and shopping cart handles. The senior may inadvertently touch their nose or mouth after touching these objects, thereby contracting the infection.
Symptoms of Seasonal Flu
Seasonal flu symptoms vary in individuals, depending on their health conditions and immune system. The most common symptoms include:
- Stuffy or Runny Nose
- Sore Throat
- Extreme Fatigue
- Muscle Aches
Flu Cure & Antidotes
The flu season typically lasts from October through the end of February. However, sometimes the season may continue into March and April as well. Every year, almost 10 to 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from influenza. Once a person contracts flu, the only ‘real’ cure may be rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Depending on the condition, doctors might prescribe anti-viral medications that prevent the virus from spreading inside the body and shorten its duration. (The medications must be consumed within 48 hours of contracting flu.)
However, the medications should never be considered a substitute for vaccinations.
Seasonal Flu & Senior Care
While the flu can affect anyone, senior adults are most vulnerable in developing complications. One of the most serious health issues is developing primary viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia. In fact, most of the hospitalizations and deaths in senior adults are caused by respiratory disorders and pneumonia. If your senior loved one has any chronic health condition such as diabetes, congestive heart disorder or lung disease, those could be intensified by the flu. Dehydration is another health complication. So, it is vital for the elderly to drink plenty of fluids if they develop flu symptoms.
Seasonal Flu Prevention Measures
One of the best ways to care for your senior loved one is to keep them away from crowded places. However, sometimes this may not be an option, especially when the seniors attend a gathering or family party. The single most effective way to guard your senior loved ones against flu is to get them vaccinated. Yes, a flu shot every year is essential to prevent the disease!
Although senior adults have weaker immune responses to flu vaccinations, they should still get vaccinated each year because:
- They’re at a greater risk of developing complications that may eventually lead to hospitalization and death.
- The effectiveness of flu vaccine in senior adults can be lower than younger people; however, some protection is better than no protection at all.
- A flu vaccination reduces the severity of the illness. Even though senior adults may get infected after taking shots, the symptoms may be milder.
- Flu vaccines are updated every season to keep up with the type of viruses.
A high-dose vaccine is designed for people aged 65 and above. It contains four times the amount of antigen than regular flu shots. Seniors who get these shots have fewer chances of developing flu infections than those who receive the standard dose. The United States has approved the use of the high-dose flu shot since 2009.
It is important to mention here that seniors aged 65 and older have diverse health conditions, activity levels, mobility and behavior when it comes to responding to medical care. If you are a busy individual, you can depend on caregivers from Dependable Health Services, who will ensure that your elderly loved ones are well-taken care of during the seasons when they are most vulnerable to diseases.