The onset of winter with its colder weather brings with it the risk of influenza in seniors. Flu symptoms start like the common cold. It is characterized by a sore throat, a blocked or runny nose, and a cough. However, the potential for fatality from flu in seniors is great, especially true if the flu is not treated immediately by a medical doctor.
Many seniors assume they have a common cold. By the time they realize it’s something more serious, the flu has launched an all-out attack on their bodies. People over the age of 65 are statistically more likely to die from influenza than any other demographic.
Frequently asked questions about influenza in seniors
Flu is an airborne disease, so you can contract the virus by breathing it in. The virus also spreads by contact. Touching a doorknob or surface a person with flu has touched is enough to cause an infection. That’s why the spread of influenza happens so easily. It can result in an epidemic or a pandemic such as the one in 1918 after World War One.
Flu season is an eight-month period where the risk of contracting flu is heightened. Flu season is at its height from late fall to early spring. In the northern hemisphere, flu season lasts from October to May. There’s no exact date for the start and end of flu season. However, there is an upswing of infections during these eight months.
As grow older, your immune system weakens. This may result in your body being unable to fight off the flu virus. Once the virus takes hold, it runs amok causing a serious of devastating complications. These include chronic lung disease and heart problems.
The best protection offered to prevent flu in seniors is vaccinations. It is recommended that the flu shot is administered at the beginning of flu season. There is a special flu shot for seniors. Each year, this flu vaccine is updated to accommodate the viruses currently circulating. Within two weeks of having the shot, immunity sets in.
There are few risks to worry about with a flu vaccination. It can cause a slight fever which will soon subside. There is the minute chance there could be an allergic reaction. If it occurs, it’s recommended you don’t have the shot again. If you have a fever, postpone having your flu shot until after it’s cleared up.
In the past, people with an egg allergy didn’t have the shot as it contains an egg protein called ovalbumin. However, they can have the shot provided their doctor monitors them for 30 minutes after administration.
Studies suggest that only two-thirds of seniors have a flu shot each year. This is one of the reasons that influenza in seniors remains a potential killer. Seniors who haven’t had a flu vaccination are advised to do so as a priority.
We at Haym Salomon Home for Nursing & Rehabilitation in Brooklyn understand that older adults and especially who suffer from chronic diseases need special attention when affected by influenza. Flu season or not, we do our best to keep you healthy.