What Every Senior Should Know About Cold and Flu Prevention

The cold and flu season can bring discomfort and short-term misery for any of us. Fortunately, most of us get over the unpleasant symptoms in a few days or at most a couple of weeks.

For senior adults, however, the flu season brings along much greater concerns. The risks can be much higher and the consequences can be much more severe for seniors.

Why Seniors Are at Higher Risk of Serious Illness

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people 65 years and older are at higher risk of severe complications from the flu when compared with young, healthy adults because human immune defenses become weaker with age. While flu seasons can vary in severity, during most seasons, people 65 years and older bear the greatest burden of severe flu disease.

The CDC estimates that in recent years between 71 and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older. Additionally, between 54 and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in that age group.

Says Collin Tierney, Executive Director and Administrator of Bryn Mawr Terrace in Bryn Mawr, PA, “With these important statistics in mind, flu season should be taken very seriously by seniors as well as their caregivers and other family members. Because of their weaker immune systems, senior adults are much more vulnerable to the life-threatening complications of colds and flu.

“Caregivers for seniors can also be at increased risk of illness as a result of the common stresses of caregiving and the fact that they can easily pass germs back and forth.”

An Ounce of Prevention: 9 Cold and Flu Tips You Should Start Today

Collin adds, “The good news is that there are several useful steps seniors can take to prevent or reduce their chances of contracting colds and flu and limit the length and severity of their illness. These steps are based on strategies that cold and flu experts recommend to boost the immune system and reduce exposure to the virus.

“Several helpful sources such as the CDC’s “What You Should Know and Do this Flu Season If You Are 65 Years and Older” and “16 COLD AND FLU PREVENTION TIPS FOR SENIORS AND CAREGIVERS” offer informative tips for fighting colds and flu that all seniors can put into practice immediately. These include: 

  1. Get a flu shot – Flu shots can reduce your chances of getting the flu as well as minimize the severity of the illness and reduce the potential for complications.
  2. Get the pneumococcal vaccines – This vaccine protects you against pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections. You can get the pneumococcal vaccine your medical provider recommends when you get the flu vaccine. Pneumococcal pneumonia is an example of a serious flu-related complication that can cause death.
  3. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly – Wash your hands with regular soap for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer to keep them free of germs.
  4. Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water and other liquids that can keep your nasal passages moist and trap germs before they can spread inside your body.
  5. Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth – Avoid touching your face as this is a common entry point for cold and flu germs.
  6. Keep your environment as germ-free as possible – Use a disinfectant when you clean. Pay particular attention to germ-laden areas such the kitchen and bathroom, as well as door knobs, light switches and countertops.
  7. Be sure your cell phone or other mobile devices are clean –You can use sanitizing wipes to eliminate the germs, but be careful not to get your electronics wet.
  8. Avoid crowds and people who are sick – Keep your distance fromindividuals who are already sick, and try to stay away from crowds where your chances of catching a cold or flu increase.
  9. Get sufficient protein and Vitamin C in your diet – Protein keeps your immune system strong and Vitamin C has been shown to improve the body’s cold fighting ability. 

“Following these tips can significantly reduce your chances of catching a cold or flu this season,” says Collin. “However, if you do become ill, it is wise to see your physician without delay.”

At Bryn Mawr Terrace, we are committed to senior health and healthy aging through a variety of education, wellness programs, short-term rehabilitation and restorative care services. For more helpful senior living and senior care information, we invite you to read our monthly articles on a variety of important senior health topics. We also welcome you to stop in for a tour to see for yourself why we’ve been rated “Best in Senior Care.”

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about cold and flu prevention, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

A Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness 

There are times when the challenges associated with advanced age, a prolonged illness or a chronic condition make 24-hour care and support a necessity. At Bryn Mawr Terrace, we’re always here for you and your family. Our compassionate, professional team treats our residents as family and respects each of them as the individuals they are, all with their own unique life story.

We understand that each one of our residents has unique needs and desires, so we deliver personalized care and services that are tailored to each individual. The amenities and activities offered within our community are designed to keep our residents happy, fulfilled and living well. From delicious dining to a variety of social programming, we offer a lifestyle that’s meant to be lived!

Located near Bryn Mawr Hospital, Bryn Mawr Terrace – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has provided exceptional care and services to seniors and their families since 1966. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Bryn Mawr Terrace serves as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), offering a range of services – including short-term rehabilitation, traditional nursing care, independent living, personal care, memory care, restorative care and respite care – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

For more information on Bryn Mawr Terrace and our variety of needs-based lifestyle services, please call us at 610.525.8300 or contact us online. 

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Bryn Mawr Terrace and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.

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