Every year when the cold and flu season rolls around, we should all take extra precautions in keeping healthy and free from sickness. Especially for seniors aged 65 and over, the effects of developing a cold or flu can be a lot more serious because we have weaker immune systems. Learning how to prevent and treat flu and cold in seniors can make a significant difference in your health. Keep reading to find out how you can best protect yourself during the colder seasons.
1. Don’t touch your face
This may be an obvious one but bacteria and viruses can enter the eyes, nose, and mouth, which is why it’s important to avoid touching your face whenever possible.
2. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water or hot tea so that your body is hydrated and can help fight off germs and viruses better. Avoid highly caffeinated drinks as they can decrease hydration.
3. Get the flu shot
Getting a vaccination against the flu is the best way to protect yourself. As an elderly citizen, you are more likely to experience serious health complications, so it’s better to minimise the effects and increase your immunity to the flu. Before getting the flu vaccine, check with your doctor that it’s suitable and won’t worsen any existing health issues.
4. Avoid gathering in large crowds or travelling unnecessarily
Large gatherings are high-risk areas for contracting cold and flu, especially in poorly ventilated areas. If possible, it is recommended that you avoid going out in large groups and keep your distance from others if possible.
5. Wear a mask
Face masks can protect you from catching other people’s illnesses as well as prevent you from spreading your own. Try to use at least double-layered masks for adequate protection.
6. Keep your environment clean and sanitise often
Unhygienic environments can become a high-risk area for catching illness. Germs will easily spread through light switches, handles, doorknobs, and other common objects. You should clean these surfaces frequently with alcohol, anti-bacterial wipes, or solutions. Mobile phones are also a breeding ground for germs so make sure you sanitise them often.
7. Increase your Vitamin C intake
While vitamin C won’t help you avoid cold and flu, it can help reduce the severity and duration of your illness. You can either get your vitamin C intake through citrus fruits or supplements of at least 200mg.
8. Wash your hands regularly
Clean hands will help you minimise the spread of germs onto your face and across surfaces. Make sure you’re using soap and water for at least 20 seconds when washing your hands. Keeping sanitiser handy is also a great way to maintain clean hands throughout the day when you don’t have access to soap and water.
9. Keep up the exercise
Exercise has always been known to keep us healthy. Science shows that it can actually strengthen the immune system and prevent you from catching a cold. In the long term, it can benefit your health by reducing the risk of respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic diseases. Even 30 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week, can make a huge difference to your wellbeing.
Symptoms of cold or flu
If you’re feeling unwell during the cold and flu season, here are the symptoms you should look out for:
• Body aches
• Severe muscle pain
• Weakness or unsteadiness
• Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
• A persistent cough (can also improve and return or worsen)
• Not urinating
• Inability to wake up
• Chronic medical conditions worsening
How to treat colds and the flu
If you’ve caught a cold or the flu, it’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible. For healthy people, the flu can last between 3 to 7 days, however, in seniors, it can last longer due to more weakened immune systems. In addition to anti-viral medication prescribed by the doctor, here are a few things you can do to speed up the recovery of cold or flu in the elderly:
• Eat chicken soup. The steam from a hot soup can open nasal passages, soothe a sore, dry throat, and assist infection-fighting white blood cells in getting rid of the cold/flu virus.
• Use a humidifier. Moisture in the air helps with dry coughs and sore throats.
• Lay down and sleep at a 45 degree angle. Laying down flat can lead to mucus gathering in sinus cavities, which causes infection. So, it’s best to rest and sleep at an angle.
• Stay extra hydrated with fluids. Drinking more liquid, such as water or tea, can assist in eliminating mucus by thinning it out and helping it leave your system more quickly.
It is beneficial that as a senior, you know how to avoid getting a cold or the flu, and treat it for quick recovery. With our various tips on prevention and treatment of cold and flu, you can help keep yourself healthy in the short term and long term.