Watch for symptoms of the flu. They include fever, body aches, chills, sore throat, headache, runny nose, cough, and fatigue.
Why the flu shot is important. Influenza (flu) is a highly contagious illness caused by viruses. People over age 65 are most at risk of having severe complications. Older adults represent up to 90% of those who die from the flu, especially seniors with heart disease or COPD, and those who live in a group setting.
To prevent catching the flu,
- get vaccinated each year, ideally by October. Vaccines are remade yearly because the viruses change.
- avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially anyone coughing or sneezing.
- wash your hands often. Use an alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water are not available.
- use tissue to cover a cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue away. Alternatively, use the upper part of your sleeve.
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
These precautions are just as important for you as for your older family member.
If you or your loved one has symptoms,
- call the doctor. An antiviral drug may be advised. These work best if taken soon after symptoms begin. Ask the doctor what symptoms require going to the ER.
- stay home (except to get medical care). Limit contact with others until symptom-free for 24 hours.
- sleep, and drink fluids. Broth, water, juice, and other noncaffeinated drinks are best.
- get extra support. Have someone stop by daily. Good self-care is difficult when illness strikes. That fresh perspective and extra pair of hands are important.
If you are around someone who is sick, limit face-to-face time and wash your hands immediately after touching the person, their tissues, or clothing.