Winter is cold and flu season and retirement communities see their share of both. While a cold may have relatively minor symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing and coughing, the flu has more serious symptoms including high fever, aching muscles, chills, sweating, headache, fatigue, nasal congestion, sore throat and dry coughing. See your doctor if you have these symptoms, as certain complications or infections can develop if the flu is left untreated.
Unfortunately, seniors are at an increased risk of developing the flu and other serious infections.
What are the best ways to avoid getting the flu?
The first step to protect yourself from influenza viruses is to get a flu shot at the beginning of flu season. Additionally, take the following precautions:
- Stay away from people who are sick until they are no longer contagious, which can be 5 to 7 days. It is a good idea to avoid crowds in general during the flu season since we don’t know for sure who is contagious or not.
- Avoid touching public surfaces, such as tables, countertops, light switches, or remote controls that may be contaminated with germs. If you have touched these surfaces, wash your hands immediately or use an anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. In your own home, clean and sanitize areas that were touched by people who are sick. A light dusting will not be enough to destroy the germs – you will have to use hot water and soap, and possibly bleach to sanitize all the impacted surfaces.
- Get enough rest. If you are tired, you will be more susceptible to getting sick.
- Get fresh air and exercise, and dress appropriately for the weather. Wear a hat and gloves, and always use sunscreen.
- Eat light, nourishing food and drink plenty of fluids – tea, water, chicken soup are all good choices.
- Don’t touch your eyes or nose, and cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the tissue immediately. If no tissues are available when you feel a sneeze coming, sneeze into your elbow, never into your hands.
- Wash your hands often, especially before cooking or handling food.
If you follow all the steps above and you still get the flu, see your doctor, then stay home and rest until after your fever is gone. Make yourself comfortable with a good book or a good movie and a cup of tea.
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