As we move towards the middle of Autumn with Winter officially on December 1st, many of us will be reminded that we are approaching ‘Flu Season’. Many doctors surgeries are already sending out letters inviting patients to attend for their annual flu jab.
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness which can suddenly develop and nasty for anyone of any age but it has increased implications for the elderly.
People 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from flu such as pneumonia . The elderly have reduced cough and gag reflexes and their immune systems are less strong.
It’s estimated that 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalisations in the United States each year occur in people 65 years and older. In the, UK approximately 80 people die daily due to flu and its complications.However, it is not just the elderly at risk. Those with chronic conditions are too.
Nothing beats basic measures of hygiene and infection control to prevent catching and/or spreading flu. Practice good hand hygiene, avoid close contact with people who may have flu and cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze with a tissue.
If you care for or work with the elderly it is also possible to buy a flu jab at your local chemist and also supermarkets with pharmacy departments.
Fever Sudden, often high (102º to 104º F)
Lasts three days or more
Sudden Headache which may be severe
Body aches are usual and often severe
Sudden fatigue and weakness which can last 2 to 3 weeks
Coughs are common and may be severe although the elderly may cough less
Sore throat, sneezing and stuffy nose
Caring for someone elderly with Flu.
Adults over 65 years of age may not have a fever when they develop flu and although colds and other viruses may cause similar symptoms,
flu weakens a person much more. Most healthy people will feel better in about five to seven days but full recovery may take 2‐3 weeks.
- Ensure they drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated
- Give paracetamol every four hours ( check first that they are safe to take paracetamol if they are on prescription medications)
- Don’t worry if the person does not want to eat, keeping them hydrated is more important.
- Encourage rest during the worst part of the illness
- Ensure you wash your hands or use an alcohol gel to remove germs every time you have been near your “patient”.
- If their breathing becomes strained or erratic call the doctor, they may be developing pneumonia.
Keep well yourself, you can’t care for others if you are ill.
There is evidence that a flu jab may also reduce the risk of a stroke so why would you not have the jab ?