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16 Cold and Flu Prevention Tips for Seniors and Caregivers

Date published: 2022-10-12

Seniors and caregivers are vulnerable to the flu

Cold and flu season is upon us again. In addition, Covid-19 will still be circulating in our communities.

It’s wise to take precautions because seniors and caregivers are usually two of the most likely groups of people to get sick.

Older adults have weaker immune systems and so do most caregivers (due to lack of sleep and chronic stress).

And if you spend a lot of time together, you’re more likely to pass germs back and forth.

Even so, there’s still a lot that you can do to reduce the chances that you or your older adult will get sick and to reduce the length or severity of a cold or flu.

Basically, the goal is to boost the immune system and reduce exposure to germs.

We share 10 tips for avoiding the flu and in case you or your older adult gets sick, we’ve got 6 tips that prevent serious flu complications and ease symptoms.

Note: The tips below focus on cold and flu prevention tips. To reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19, follow CDC guidelines – wear a face mask indoors or in crowds and wash your hands.


10 cold and flu prevention tips reduce risk for seniors and caregivers

1. Get the flu vaccine Getting a flu shot reduces the risk of getting the flu. It also reduces the severity of the illness and protects against complications – both especially important for seniors..

And when you get a flu shot, you reduce the risk that you’ll get sick and infect your older adult.

The best time to get a flu shot is from October through November, but experts say that it’s still useful to get the shot even if it’s later in the flu season.

Note: For the 2022-2023 flu season, many health experts recommend getting a flu shot before the end of October.

2. Wash or sanitize hands thoroughly and often Frequently hand washing with regular soap is an effective way to get rid of cold and flu germs.

Using regular soap is fine because rubbing the hands together for at least 20 seconds is what eliminates germs – long enough to sing the Happy Birthday song twice. Make sure to clean under the nails, backs of hands, between fingers, and wrists.

If you can’t get to soap and water often enough, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to kill cold and flu germs.

This may be a good option for older adults who can’t easily get up to wash their hands.

3. Exercise regularly Moderate exercise boosts the immune system and could reduce risk of a cold by a third.

Even though caregiving doesn’t leave a lot of time for exercise and older adults may not have a lot of endurance, any amount of regular exercise will benefit the body and immune system.

4. Avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth We often touch our faces without thinking, which is a common way for cold and flu germs to enter the body.

To reduce the risk of getting sick, minimize touching of the face.

5. Clean the environment to eliminate germs Try to keep the environment as germ-free as possible. That means using disinfectant when cleaning, especially in the bathroom and kitchen.

When cleaning, pay special attention to germ hot spots like doorknobs, light switches, and kitchen and bathroom counters.

And, make sure to disinfect cleaning sponges and rags (a breeding ground for germs) by changing them frequently, soaking in bleach, microwaving for 1-2 minutes, or running through the dishwasher.

In an outside workplace, wash your hands after touching communal office spaces and regularly disinfect your own work area.

6. Sanitize your mobile devices Something that many people forget is how dirty and germ-filled their mobile device is.

Clean it regularly with sanitizing wipes or rubbing alcohol – being careful not to wet the electronics.

7. Stay away from people who are sick It might sound obvious, but it’s worth repeating: keep your distance from people who are sick.

If you need to be around a sick person, limit your contact and avoid unnecessary touching like shaking hands or hugging.

8. Avoid crowds and unnecessary travel Try to avoid being in large groups of people, especially in poorly-ventilated spaces. That increases the chance of catching a cold or flu from an infected person.

9. Drink plenty of liquids Staying hydrated with plenty of liquids, especially plain water or hot tea, can help the body better fight off germs.

10. Get added Vitamin C and protein through nutritious foods Some studies have shown that a little extra Vitamin C (but not too much) can reduce the risk of getting sick.

It’s best to get it through food, but a 200 mg supplement also works. But first, check with the doctor to be sure that the supplement would be safe for your older adult.

Not getting enough protein can also lower the immune response, so try to add fish, eggs, or yogurt to your and your older adult’s diets.


6 tips to prevent flu complications and ease symptoms

Despite the best efforts, people can still get sick with the flu.

Here are some tips to protect seniors from deadly complications and make symptoms more bearable.

1. Visit the doctor ASAP for prescription antiviral medication Getting antiviral drugs as soon as possible can make the flu milder and prevent serious flu complications.

This is especially important for older adults. It could mean the difference between just having the flu or being hospitalized with severe pneumonia.

Flu antiviral drugs typically work best if they’re started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful – especially for seniors because they’re at such high risk of complications.

Don’t hesitate to call the doctor if you or your older adult get sick, even if you’re not 100% sure it’s the flu – they can help with the diagnosis.

2. Avoid spreading the flu A person with flu may be contagious up to 5 or more days after symptoms appear.

Protect others while sick by washing hands frequently, coughing or sneezing into a tissue and immediately throwing it away, and keeping a distance.

3. Use a humidifier Moist air helps soothe sore throats and hacking coughs.

4. Drink chicken soup This home remedy really does work. Steam opens nasal passages, the broth soothes the throat, and the soup actually helps infection-fighting white blood cells do a better job.

5. Drink extra liquids Extra fluids help thin out the mucous and makes it easier to get it out of your system.

6. Rest or sleep at a 45 degree angle Lying down causes mucous to gather in sinus cavities, which is unpleasant and could also lead to further infection.

Resting or sleeping at an angle helps prevent this and also reduces inflammation.

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team Image: Lake Norman Pulmonary & Sleep


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