As the summer sun begins to set and the days get shorter, the time to begin thinking about how to protect yourself against colds and flu is here. This is especially true for the elderly as this age group experiences the largest number of complications and deaths related to respiratory infections such as the flu every year.
The easiest and the most important step you can take to protect the older people in your lives from the flu is to get a flu shot. Not only will getting a flu vaccination help protect your loved one, but will also prevent the spread of the virus to others. For the elderly, it is important to get the vaccination early in the season. The reason for this is because it takes the average body to provoke an immune response to the vaccine about two weeks. In the elderly, this process can take longer. Since the protection the vaccine provides will last all year, regardless of when the shot is administered, the earlier the shot is given, the more likely the body will have developed the appropriate immunity to the virus and the more protected your elderly loved ones will be.
Back in 2010, seniors began having a choice between receiving a normal dose of the vaccine or getting a higher dose of the antigen designed to provoke a larger immune response in those 65 years of age and older. The idea is that if the body is exposed to a higher dosage of antigen, the immune response will be greater and therefore the protection the vaccine offers will be greater, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In order to make the determination as to which vaccine to receive, it is best to discuss your options with your regular healthcare providers. Both vaccines will provide protection against the same strains of the flu.
In addition to getting vaccinated with the correct dose of flu vaccine at the earliest possible time, there are other things you can do to help protect your elderly loved ones from contracting a cold or the flu:
• Ensure that those who provide regular care for your elderly loved one washes their hands often with both warm water and soap. This is the number one offender when it comes to virus transmission and stopping it in its tracks.
• Try to avoid highly congested areas during the height of cold and flu season. Try to keep your elderly loved one from having to visit places like shopping centers and holiday venues as they are more likely to come into contact with infected individuals in situations where they are exposed to large numbers of people.
• Try to avoid having them touch their eyes, nose or mouth after having been around large numbers of people. Promote good hygiene and encourage hand washing.
• Try to avoid unnecessary trips to doctors’ offices and hospitals during cold and flu season. Many sick people visit these facilities during this time and can transmit the virus to others either directly or indirectly through contact with contaminated waiting room chairs.
• Have them adhere to a solid nutrition and sleep schedule as well as take their medications as directed.