October through May marks the flu season and, as always, seniors are encouraged to get their flu shots. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend all people ages 6 months and older get a flu shot, young children, people with certain health conditions and people ages 65 and older are at a higher risk for the flu and should make this a health priority during the upcoming months. Senior caregivers also should receive the vaccine to help stop the spread of the virus. Seniors living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities may be at an even higher risk due to the close living quarters that enables a faster and more easily spread of the virus.
Seniors and caregivers can watch for common flu symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache and cough. Flu has been known to cause high fever, pneumonia and diarrhea among many other conditions although these are not always present.
Since influenza viruses are always changing, the best way to prevent the flu is with an annual flu vaccination. In addition to the flu shot or flu mist, there are still many things you can do to prevent the flu.
- Wash your hands. Always practice good hand hygiene by washing with warm water and soap. Hand sanitizers do not eliminate all germs but can be used when soap and water are not readily available.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Immediately dispose of tissue properly.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- If you are sick, stay home in order to reduce the chance of spreading the flu.
- Rest, fluids and some medications to relieve symptoms will help you get better.
- Drink water.
- Eat healthy including fresh fruits and vegetables.
Speak with your health care provider about a flu vaccine or if you or a loved one are experiencing any flu symptoms. You can get a flu shot at your doctor’s office, hospitals, clinics and many pharmacies. Be sure to ask about Medicare and your insurance coverage.