As the leaves start to fall and the air turns crisper, we are reminded that flu season is around the corner. For seniors, staying healthy during the fall months is especially crucial, as the flu can lead to serious complications in older adults. But, with the right precautions, seniors can significantly reduce their risk of getting sick.
Keep reading to learn how seniors can stay healthy during this flu season.
Why are Seniors More Susceptible to Complications from the Flu?
People ages 65 and older are more susceptible to complications of the cold and flu due to several factors associated with aging. As we age, our immune systems tend to weaken, which can make it harder for the body to fight off sicknesses like the common cold and flu.
Additionally, seniors with certain chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease are at a higher risk of developing life-threatening complications from the flu. That is because these health conditions can further compromise seniors’ immune function, therefore increasing their vulnerability to illness.
Since flu strains and cold viruses in the environment pose a higher risk to seniors, it is crucial to take extra precautions to stay healthy during this time.
9 Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season
1. Wash Your Hands Often
Frequent handwashing is a simple yet powerful way to combat cold and flu viruses. Make sure to frequently wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds (or sing “Happy Birthday” twice). This is especially important after being out in public or touching surfaces like door knobs, railings, light switches, and more.
When soap and water are not available, hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can be used. This can be a good option for seniors with less mobility to still keep their hands clean.
Be sure to also wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, and using the bathroom to prevent the further spread of germs.
2. Avoid Close Contact with Sick People
During flu season, remember to limit close contact with people who are sick. It may sound obvious, but it is an important reminder for seniors.
Viruses spread easily through close contact. If your friends or family members are feeling under the weather, encourage them to take precautions and wait to visit with them until they are better. If you find yourself near someone who is sick, avoid touching, shaking hands, hugging, or sharing drinks with them.
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will provide seniors with essential nutrients that can improve their immune system. Certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc are particularly important for maintaining immunity. In fact, studies show that additional Vitamin C can shorten the length of an illness or limit its severity. So grab some oranges and get in that Vitamin C (but be sure to consult with your doctor first)!
4. Get Your Flu Shot
One of the most effective ways to protect yourself from the flu is by getting an annual flu shot. The flu vaccine is specifically designed to match the common flu strains that year.
Seniors should prioritize getting a flu shot because it can lessen their risk of developing the flu. It can also reduce the severity of flu symptoms and protect against complications.
Click here to find locations near you that offer the flu vaccine.
5. Stay Physically Active
Regular exercise not only helps seniors stay in shape, but also contributes to a strong immune system. According to the Cleveland Clinic, just 20-30 minutes of exercise per day can boost your immune system significantly, helping you fight off illnesses.
Staying active can also improve circulation, reduce stress, and enhance your overall well-being. Seniors can participate in countless fitness activities such as pickleball, walking, Zumba, swimming, aerobics, yoga and many more.
Getting adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining a strong immune system. Studies have shown that sleep helps the immune system function properly, and that chronic sleep loss is a risk factor for an impaired immune system. So, make sure to prioritize a good night’s sleep as much as possible. Seniors should aim for 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night.
7. Drink Plenty of Liquids
Staying hydrated is a crucial part of maintaining your health during flu season. Drinking water helps the body fight off germs. Women should aim to drink 2.7 liters of water per day, and men should aim for 3.7 liters.
Florida seniors in particular need to make drinking enough water a priority because Florida temperatures can still be high during the fall, increasing the risk of dehydration and heat stroke.
8. Avoid Touching Your Face
Many of us touch our faces as a mindless habit. However, it is best to avoid touching your face if you can help it, or to wash your hands first. Germs can easily enter your body through your eyes, mouth, and nose. So, the more you touch your face, the more germs you may be introducing.
9. Avoid Crowds and Unnecessary Travel
Being in crowded areas increases your chances of catching the cold or flu from someone else. This risk is increased in indoor and poorly-ventilated areas. If you cannot avoid being in these crowded areas, try to keep your distance from others as much as you can.
Keeping Your Loved Ones Healthy
Seniors should be vigilant when it comes to cold and flu season. By taking proactive steps to prevent sickness, seniors can significantly reduce their risk of getting sick and continue to lead an active and fulfilling life.
Making sure your loved ones stay healthy can be difficult, especially if you live far away.
Florida Senior Consulting treats seniors as part of the family. We will guide them through the senior living process to make sure they get the care they need to stay safe and healthy.
Visit FloridaSeniorConsulting.com or call (800) 969-7176 to speak with an expert senior advisor based right in Florida. Our services are at no cost to you.