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6 tips for flu prevention

Learn best practices to keep yourself as healthy as possible this flu season

In Florida, fall and winter often bring great joy and relief to people of all ages looking forward to the holidays—and looking forward to a respite from the warmer months.

However, it’s important (especially for seniors!) to remember that the colder weather also brings along flu season.

The flu is highly preventable, but people 65 years and older are at a significantly higher risk of developing complications from the flu compared to other groups.

It’s estimated that between 50 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations and between 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older. [1]

With the additional risk of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, taking steps for flu prevention is more important than ever before. Continue reading to learn 6 tips for flu prevention that you can take today. 

Tip #1: Get a vaccine 

The flu vaccine is the most important and effective step you can take for flu prevention. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you get a seasonal flu vaccine every year by the end of October.

The flu vaccine is updated each year to keep up with the evolving nature of the virus and because your immunity wanes over time, so it’s vital to get a flu shot every year to protect yourself.

Flu vaccination is especially important for seniors at a high risk of developing serious complications from the flu. Studies have consistently shown that the vaccine has been effective in reducing the risk of hospitalizations and medical visits related to the flu. [2]

When getting a flu vaccine, people 65 years and older need to get a shot, not a nasal spray vaccine. They can get any type of vaccine approved for use in their age group, but there are two vaccines especially designed for their age group—the high dose flu vaccine and the adjuvanted flu vaccine.

The high dose flu vaccine has four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot, while the adjuvanted flu vaccine is made with an additive that creates a stronger immune response to vaccination. Both vaccines have been found more effective in immune response and lowering the chance of illness than the standard dose vaccine for adults 65 years and older. Ask your doctor or local pharmacy about how to get the vaccine that’s best for you.

Tip #2: Avoid close contact 

If you’re sick (with a cold, flu, or something else), you should stay home and keep your distance from others to prevent the spread of illness. If you have the flu, it’s recommended by the CDC to stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks to eliminate the chance of infecting others.

It’s also important that you avoid close contact with anyone you know who is sick in order to practice best flu prevention protocols.  

Tip #3: Cover coughs and sneezes 

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing to prevent those around you from getting sick. The flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses are easily spread by coughing, sneezing, and unwashed hands.

Bonus tip: Avoid touching your face—especially your eyes, nose and mouth—as much as possible to reduce the spread of germs. 

Learn more:

Home care during COVID-19: How we’re keeping seniors safe and well

Tip #4: Wash your hands frequently 

Washing your hands often with soap and water is one of the easiest ways to remove and prevent the spread of germs. In fact, one study found that hand washing can prevent around 20% of respiratory infections such as colds. [3]

The CDC has a 5 step process for most effectively washing your hands:

  1. Wet your hands with warm or cold water, turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather the back and front of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. 
  3. Scrub for at least 20 seconds. If you need a timer, try singing the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. 
  4. Rinse your hands thoroughly with water. 
  5. Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dry.  

If you don’t have access to soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. While hand sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs, they can quickly reduce the number of germs on your hands when needed. The CDC recommends applying the sanitizer to the palm of one hand and rubbing the gel over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until they’re dry, about 20 seconds.

Tip #5: Clean and disinfect surfaces

Regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects is an important step to prevent getting sick.

The CDC recommends you clean surfaces with soap and water before using disinfectant. The soap and water reduces the number of germs, dirt, and impurities while the disinfectant kills germs—both of which are important steps in reducing the spread of germs. 

High touch surfaces include: 

  • Tables
  • Doorknobs
  • Light switches
  • Countertops 
  • Phones
  • Remote controls
  • Keyboards, and
  • Faucets and sinks. 

Tip #6: Practice good health habits

Any time of year, but especially during flu season, it’s important to practice good health habits that can bolster your immune system and help you proactively fight against illness.

A few simple health habits to practice include:

  • Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night
  • Practicing some form of physical activity
  • Managing your stress
  • Drinking plenty of fluids, and
  • Eating nutritious food.

Your immune system naturally becomes less effective as you age, so these simple health habits are even more important for seniors looking to practice flu prevention measures. 

In conclusion

The flu is a virus that no one wants to battle, least of all with this year’s added risk of COVID-19.

Use these tips for flu prevention and you’ll help to keep yourself and your loved ones protected from not only the flu but also the common cold, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses.

From everyone at Flourish in Place, we wish you a happy, healthy fall and winter!

Do you or your loved one need a helping hand at home?

We understand the importance of being trusted by families to keep their aging loved ones safe and well during this challenging time. 

Our trained, compassionate caregivers can assist with a variety of needs including personal care, cooking and serving nutritious meals, transportation, and companionship.

To learn more, please request your Free Consultation today.

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Sources:

1: CDC

2: Plos One

3: PubMed

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