Millions of Americans become ill during the dreaded flu season, and hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bulk of flu-related hospitalizations occur within vulnerable groups, particularly those aged 65 and up.

In most cases, the flu season begins in October and lasts until February or March. COVID-19 continues to put a pressure on the healthcare system, thus protection and risk reduction are especially important this winter. As flu season approaches, the elderly and their family members should be aware of the hazards and precautions that must be taken to avoid disease.

What Are Flu Symptoms in Seniors?

Symptoms might be moderate to severe, and they can suddenly. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

The following symptoms can indicate your elderly loved one needs additional medical care and should see a doctor immediately:

  • Breathing troubles
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Severe vomiting
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Confusion
  • Inability to wake up
  • Inability to urinate
  • Symptoms that improve and then return with fever or worse cough
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

The Best Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season

There are a few things seniors and main family caregivers can do to protect themselves:

Get vaccinated

The best protection comes from getting the flu vaccine early in the season. Flu vaccines are available at most pharmacies, doctor’s offices, walk-in clinics, and hospitals and are safe and effective in reducing the risk of serious disease.

The flu vaccine may be even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is possible to have both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. Getting sick with the flu, in fact, can make you more susceptible to COVID-19 infection.

Consult a doctor if your elderly loved one is unsure about obtaining the flu vaccine. If your senior needs reassurance, you can plan an appointment for them to get the immunization at the same time.

Avoid contact with people who are ill

If a senior is unwell, they should avoid interaction with those who are sick and stay at home. The infectious period for the flu in healthy persons can start one day before symptoms show and last up to seven days. People with weakened immune systems can be contagious for even longer periods of time.

The same precautions that are used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are also used to prevent the flu. Encourage family and friends to stay away from large gatherings throughout the flu season. To guard against COVID-19 and the flu, make sure to follow local rules for social distancing and masking.

Maintain personal hygiene

Personal cleanliness is an excellent technique to prevent the illness from spreading or being caught. Encourage the following healthy hygiene habits in your senior loved ones to keep them safe:

  • Hands should be washed often with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead.
  • To avoid becoming infected with viruses and bacteria, avoid touching your eyes, lips, and face.
  • Coughs and sneezes should be covered. When coughing or sneezing, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue and toss the tissue in the garbage.
  • Surfaces such as doorknobs, counters, and faucet handles should be cleaned and disinfected.

Seek medical care if ill

Even if symptoms are moderate, make an appointment with a doctor if a senior loved one becomes ill with the flu.

The flu can be dangerous for the elderly, but with the proper measures and senior care routines, risks can be reduced. Consider contacting Home Care Assistance of Greater Burlington for additional at-home senior care support for a loved one this flu season.