Posted on October 10, 2017 by Atria Senior Living
Experts typically look to the southern hemisphere’s flu season to predict what might happen in the U.S., and this year looks to be challenging.
“Australia’s flu season has always been a good indicator of our flu season, and unfortunately it looks as if the flu season for 2018 will be a tough one for us based upon what we’ve seen there this year,” says Mike Gentry, Senior Vice President, Care and Life Guidance. “So being more diligent in taking steps to stay healthy, and reminding those around us how they can stay healthy, will give us the best chance of avoiding catching and spreading the flu this season.”
The flu can be dangerous for older adults, particularly those living in close quarters, such as in a retirement community or an assisted living community. With sneezing season right around the corner, it’s important to take preventive measures – not only to keep yourself healthy, but also to protect those around you from contracting the virus.
Get Your Flu Shot
Have you had your annual flu shot yet? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months or older get a seasonal flu vaccine by Halloween. Even if you get a flu shot after the recommended date, it isn’t too late: vaccines received as late as January can still help protect you from late-circulating flu viruses. Remember, though, that it will take your body two weeks to fully build appropriate antibodies. The earlier you receive your flu shot, the likelier you are to stay healthy.
It’s vital that adults aged 65 and older get a flu vaccine every year, since they’re at risk for serious complications. However, children and adults of all ages should also be vaccinated, especially if they’re regularly visiting grandparents in an independent living or assisted living community. When it comes to vaccines, it’s all about community protection – the idea that when more people are vaccinated, everyone will be more protected. This is especially important because many seniors won’t be able to get flu vaccines because of other medical or age-related issues. Do your part to keep everyone safe!
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Good hygiene goes a long way toward warding off flu germs. Of course, it’s smart to be a good hand-washer throughout the year, but it’s even more imperative during flu season. Simple rinses under cold water may not be enough: to effectively kill germs, lather up with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds. Wash your hands every time you leave or return home, use the restroom or handle any food.
Although gel hand sanitizer is no substitute for a good hand-washing, it can help in a pinch. Keep a small bottle on hand for emergencies – for example, if you or someone near you has a coughing or sneezing attack and you can’t get to the restroom or a sink.
Eat Your Vegetables
Does food really play a role in avoiding the flu? It can! Eating regular meals full of nutrient-dense foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, can help build the immunity you need to beat the flu and other illnesses.
It’s not just about eating fresh produce, though that should be a top priority. A healthy diet should also contain the appropriate number of calories (at least 1,200, though it will vary based on age, gender, weight and activity level – talk to your doctor for a more precise answer) and enough protein. Eat a wide range of healthy foods, but note that certain foods might help boost your immunity more than others, including broccoli, sweet potatoes, garlic, ginger, salmon (with omega-3 fatty acids) and yogurt (which contains probiotics).
Help Stop the Spread
If you feel a cold or flu coming on, don’t wait to find out what your diagnosis is: call your doctor and stay home until you feel better (unless you need medical attention, of course). Remember that in senior communities, a quarantine might be required when the flu strikes, so try to understand if regularly scheduled visits have to be postponed to keep everyone safe. Remember, if you are caring for someone at home with the flu or know that you have been exposed to the flu elsewhere, you could be infected and not know it. You are at a much higher risk of spreading the infection in the first few days because you don’t have symptoms and aren’t aware you are ill!
Drinking plenty of liquids (especially water), exercising regularly, sleeping seven to nine hours a night and reducing stress can also help you avoid the flu. Don’t underestimate the importance of these regular healthy habits, and be extra-vigilant to practice them every day during flu season to make sure you and others stay happy and healthy.