The good news is that there are preventative steps you can take to help you and the Indiana senior you care for avoid the flu during the holidays this year.
5 Flu Prevention Tips for Indiana Seniors and Caregivers
- Get Your Flu Shot: Despite all we know about the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine, caregivers and seniors still put off having one. While physicians typically suggest being vaccinated in October, it is never too late to get your flu shot. It’s the best step you can take to protect yourself and the senior you are a caregiver for. For the 2016-2017 flu season the CDC only recommends the injectable flu vaccine and not the nasal spray.
- Wash Your Hands: Frequent hand washing is an important part of staying healthy all year long. This is especially true from December through February when flu season is typically at its peak. Washing your hands with hot, soapy water is the best way to kill any bugs you may have been exposed to. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends keeping an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your purse or car for times when you don’t have access to soap and water.
- Avoid Touching Your Face: Many of us don’t realize just how often we touch our face. Experts say we touch some part of our face 3.6 times each hour. If you have come in contact with the flu virus during the last two hours, you can easily transfer the bug from your hand to your nose or mouth. One of the best ways to prevent contracting the flu is to make a conscious effort not to scratch your nose, rub your eyes, or touch your mouth or any other part of your face.
- Limit Close Contact: The holidays are often filled with celebrations and gatherings that come with lots of hugs, kisses and handshakes. During flu season, personal contact puts you at higher risk for developing the flu. The virus can be easily transmitted from person-to-person. Part of the problem is that some people may be symptom free and don’t even realize they are carrying the virus. Try to limit personal contact as much as possible and to wash your hands more often when you are part of a crowd.
- Commit to a Healthy Lifestyle: A healthy immune system helps caregivers fight off potential bugs. This includes eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and protein, drinking an adequate amount of water each day, getting 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week and sleeping 7-8 hours every night. We understand the demands of the busy holiday season can make this step a real challenge for already overwhelmed caregivers. It’s why the holidays might be a good time to explore respite care programs in Indiana.
Our final tip is if, despite your best efforts at prevention, you feel like you or your senior loved one are coming down with a case of the flu, call your family doctor right away. There are prescription antiviral medications that can shorten the amount of time you are sick or keep the symptoms from becoming too severe.