Seniors and the Flu: What You Need to Know

elderly person sick with the flu during flu season

Seasonal influenza is an extremely common condition, especially in senior care. Estimates range from 10 to 35 million people will develop symptomatic influenza every year. The CDC estimates that most years between 12,000 and 60,000 deaths occur because of the flu. And complications from the flu. While this year’s flu season is expected to be more mild than usual; it is more important than ever to prevent the spread of flu as much as possible given the strain COVID-19 is having on our health care system. Having a senior care aide can help elderly people living at home during flu season; to prevent the flu by assisting with errands, planning and preparing healthy meals, and more.

Symptoms and Complications of Influenza in seniors

Symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Most people with the flu recover quickly, within a few days or weeks. But complications can also arise from the flu. Especially among seniors. The most serious, and one of the most common in the elderly is pneumonia, which often requires hospitalization and can be fatal. Other serious flu complications for the elderly are the worsening of chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma.

The Risk to Seniors in Home Care

Seniors have a more complicated risk when it comes to the flu. While seniors are somewhat less likely to get sick from the flu (which experts believe is due to some acquired immunity that builds up over the years of being exposed to various flu viruses). Those who do get sick are much more likely to get very sick and experience complications. Symptoms usually come on quickly (within a day or two of infection); and it’s important to seek treatment right away. There are antiviral drugs that can help, but they are usually only effective within the first 48 hours of symptoms. If you suspect you might have the flu, call your medical professional right away.

COVID-19 and the Flu: Keeping Seniors Safe From Both

There are similarities between the flu season and COVID-19; which has led to much confusion over the past year. Both are spread by respiratory droplets, and both can cause fever, cough and respiratory symptoms. But there are important differences. The most prominent difference is what’s known as asymptomatic transmission. While people with the flu generally show symptoms within two days of being infected; and can only infect others within a day of becoming sick, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can be transmitted; whether or not the infected person has any symptoms. In fact, most experts believe that someone infected with the coronavirus, but with no symptoms, can be contagions for as long as 10 days. Whereas people with the flu are generally not contagious 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.

Senior Home Care questions: I’m staying home anyway, can I still get the flu?

While the global COVID-19 pandemic continues, many seniors are staying home more. Making them less likely to contract the flu. But low risk isn’t zero risk. You can still get the flu with limited contact with someone who is sick.

Senior Home Care questions: What makes the flu so dangerous this year?

The strains of influenza circulating this year are not expected to be any more dangerous or unusual than a typical year. Though there always is some unpredictability. However, because hospitals and medical facilities have so many COVID-19 patients;  the necessary beds and care personnel may not be available for serious flu cases.

Senior Home Care questions: What can I do to prevent the flu?

The single most important thing seniors in home care can do to prevent the flu; is to get an annual flu vaccine.  The vaccine is safe, easy to get, and usually comes at no cost to people with Medicare or Medicaid.

Beyond getting vaccinated, the advice for preventing flu will sound familiar by now. Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your nose or mouth as much as possible and stay home if you are feeling ill.

Home Care Powered By AUAF Can Help Seniors Stay Safe From the Flu

Our in-home care aides can help with many things that will help keep seniors safe from the flu. Whether it’s shopping for groceries or setting up medication reminders, a professional caregiver can help with many everyday tasks that can keep seniors safe from the flu. Call us at 773-274-9262 or contact us to find out more.

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