It's no surprise to anyone that people over 65 are at the greatest risk when it comes to the influenza virus. Over 50% the flu hospitalizations, and almost 90% of influenza deaths are in this age bracket. Add to that the high risk of exposure from children and grandchildren, and the concentration of elderly populations in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living, and retirement communities, and it's no wonder the Centers for Disease control is concerned about flu epidemics every year. Here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself:
- Flu Shots: The Centers for Disease Control recommends an influenza vaccination every year. It is advisable to get the vaccination before October to be fully protected by the time the flu season gets in full swing. People over 65 need to particularly heed this warning as they are at the highest risk of developing complications from influenza which can be extremely serious at their age. Even if you were vaccinated last year, it is important to get a new shot this year. Every year the formula changes as the strains of flu mutate from year to year. Last year's shot may not immunize you from this year's virus. Immunity also wanes over time.
There are a couple of different choices of vaccines available to seniors. One is a regular dose, and the second is a much higher one. Recent studies suggest that the higher dosages is 25% more effective in preventing the flu.
- Good hygiene is important: Basic health habits are essential. Wash your hands regularly; cover your cough: and avoid people who are sick.
- Reduce or Avoid Sugar and Processed foods. Sugar in all its various forms is causing more preventable illness and death than even cigarettes do in this country. Sugar, processed flour (a simple carbohydrate that turns to sugar very quickly in our digestive systems), corn syrup, condiments (which are mostly tainted with sugar) all contribute to inflammation, excess body fat, and over tax our immune systems, making us much more vulnerable to colds and flu.
- Exercise: Even moderate exercise 3 or more times a week can bolster your immune system and help you fight off disease.
- See your Doctor as quickly as possible: There are some very important strategies your doctor can use to head off a serious flu infection early. Anti-viral drugs can even be employed with the elderly if the infection is treated early.
If you're wondering if you have the flu, common symptoms include chills and fatigue, headaches, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, cough, body aches and fever. Some people do not get a fever with the flu and may have a combination of the other symptoms.