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Protecting Seniors from H1N1 Flu

H1N1 and the Elderly…Protection Advice

It seems that everyone is concerned about the spread of the flu, especially as supplies of seasonal flu vaccine dwindle and H1N1 vaccines are not yet available in large quantities. We are all bracing for a tough flu season. However, we can reduce our anxiety level by employing some basic common sense and taking preventative measures.

How can you best protect yourself and the seniors you care for? Fortunately, H1N1 swine flu doesn't seem to be a big problem for seniors unless that person has a chronic underlying condition, according to CDC reports. Researchers theorize that older persons, who have been exposed multiple times in their life time with various flu outbreaks, may have residual immunity of which some is against the H1N1 strain. Those seniors with underlying conditions like heart and lung diseases or compromised immune systems have additional risks associated with H1N1 and the seasonal flu. Most physicians recommend that their elderly patients receive both the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines, if available as the best means of preventing flu.

Advise Seniors to follow the following guidelines:

  • Stay away from individuals exhibiting signs of flu including, sneezing, runny nose, coughing, fever. Do not touch objects previously handled by the sick person.

  • Wash hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer along on outings.

  • Use disposable paper towels instead of cloth hand towels to dry hands.

  • Avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose.

  • Stay away from large crowded areas in confined spaces.

  • If you are caring for someone ill with the flu, consider wearing a mask to protect yourself. Also, if you become ill, protect the senior you care for by arranging for a substitute caregiver.

  • If you suspect flu in an elderly loved one, prompt medical attention is recommended so that anti-viral medications can be started and risk of complications reduced.

The following symptoms should prompt you to seek urgent medical care for a loved one:

  • Problems breathing or shortness of breath

  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

  • Sudden dizziness

  • Confusion

  • Severe or persistent vomiting

  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Please post your comments and elder care tips. We would love to hear from you!

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