Helping Seniors Avoid and Treat the Flu

Are you suffering through coughing, headaches and chills? Welcome to flu season. While the flu is a fatiguing ailment for everyone, did you know that senior citizens are particularly susceptible to the flu bug?

Seniors, especially those 65 and older, have a weakened immune system. This means their ability to fight off infectious diseases is much lower than that of a younger, healthier person. A particularly difficult bout with the flu could even result in death. According to, 90 percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.

What are common flu symptoms to look for?

  • A 100-degree or higher fever, although not everyone with the flu suffers a fever
  • Rapid changes in temperature – the individual may feel “feverish” and hot one moment, then have chills the next.
  • A cough and/or sore throat
  • Headaches and/or body aches
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Fatigue suggests getting immediate emergency medical attention if the following is present:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with worsening cough and a fever

FLU-senior-300x199The Best Way to Avoid the Flu:

Are you a caregiver or family member who comes into contact with an elderly person regularly? The best thing you can do to protect them, and yourself, from the flu is for BOTH of you to receive a flu vaccine. These are readily available at area pharmacies or through your physician and often cost $30 or less for a year’s worth of peace of mind. Caregivers and family members should encourage the senior to get the flu shot or even get it with them at the same time. According to a Center for Disease Control and Preventionreport, an estimated 79,000 hospitalizations from influenza were averted in 2013 thanks to the flu vaccine.

Everyday Ways to Help Avoid the Flu:

  • Wash your hands often: it is best to wash with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Antibacterial soap DOES NOT offer any extra protection, so check your labels!
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth to stop spreading germs.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue out immediately after use – keeping it around for the next sneeze will spread more germs.
  • Build up the immune system with good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, drink plenty of fluids and eat healthy, whole foods.
  • Watch your stress level. This is particularly true for caregivers. Stress weakens your immune system and increases your risk of disease.

How Can I Help a Senior with the Flu?

First, take them to the doctor for a diagnosis. It is always better to get a professional opinion first! Depending on how severe the flu is, the doctor may prescribe antiviral medication. If the doctor does not prescribe anything, here is the typical treatment for flu symptoms:

  • Ample sleep and bed rest
  • Drinking clear fluids like water, broth, or electrolyte beverages to prevent dehydration
  • Placing a cool, damp washcloth on the forehead, arms, and legs to help reduce fever
  • Aspirin (if it doesn’t conflict with any pre-existing medications) to help reduce the fever
  • Keep the senior warm at all times with higher temperature in the home, heating pads, warm baths, blankets, etc.
  • Placing a humidifier in the room to make breathing easier. Tip: add a little Vicks Vapor Rub in the humidifier to help ease any congestion.


What if I Have Flu-Like Symptoms?

If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. Do not come into contact with any elderly individuals at this time. Influenza, left untreated, could develop into pneumonia, an infection of the lungs. Pneumonia is the fifth overall cause of death among seniors.

With these tips, we hope you can keep the elders in your life, and yourself, flu free this season.

AmeriCare Medical, Inc. is based out of Troy, Michigan and provides specialized home care services to the metro-Detroit Area. AmeriCare Medical Inc. is the parent company of AmeriStaff Nursing Services, Sun Medical Equipment and Rx iV Specialty Pharmacy. For more information and a FREE homecare nursing consultation, please call (248) 288-2270 or


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