Older adults are more susceptible to the flu because the immune system weakens with age. Ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older. Not only is it important for elders to be protected against the flu, those who care for them should minimize their risk of influenza.
While the severity and exact timing of seasonal flu activity can vary from year to year, flu outbreaks can start as early as October and continue through May. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends vaccination for individuals starting in October when the vaccine first becomes available. While there are many different flu viruses, the seasonal flu vaccine is designed to protect against the main flu viruses that research suggests will cause the most illness during the upcoming flu season.
The CDC has created a comprehensive website http://www.flu.gov/ which includes extensive information on flu symptoms and treatment. Here are some tips and reminders for caregivers culled from that site:
While it is less likely that you will get the flu if you’ve gotten the vaccine this year, it still is possible to get sick, although with a briefer and milder case of the flu.
If you do get sick, the first step is determining whether you have the flu.
Do I Have the Flu or a Cold?
Although the flu and common cold have similar symptoms, the flu tends to be more severe. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, tiredness, and cough are more common and intense with the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Your doctor can give you a test at the beginning of your illness to tell if you do have the flu.
5 Signs You Have the Flu
While each strain of influenza is different, and not everyone gets all the symptoms of the flu, here are five symptoms to look for:
1. A 100◦F or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
2. A cough and/or sore throat
3. A runny or stuffy nose
4. Headaches and/or body aches
When Should I Seek Emergency Medical Attention?
Influenza can be dangerous, and even fatal. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following:
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Purple or blue discoloration of the lip
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Sudden dizziness,
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
There are many things you can do to minimize the risk of the flu. Click here for 14 Flu Prevention Tips for Caregivers