Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Since 2020, more emphasis has been placed on COVID-19 and the dangers associated with it than anything else. We’ve almost forgotten how difficult cold and flu season can be. As you age, your immune system begins to weaken for various reasons, which means individuals age 65+ are at an increased risk of developing serious complications from colds and flu. In fact, 50% of flu-related hospitalizations and 85% of flu-related deaths are older individuals.

Gentle Shepherd Home Care
 is here to support your overall health and wellness. We can help you and your loved one find top-quality in-home senior care. We’ve been in your position, trying to find well-trained, qualified caregivers- which is why we were founded. We only place caregivers that we would trust our own loved ones with. Since we’re locally owned and not a chain, we can provide you and your loved one with individualized, compassionate care.

Below, we’ll offer 12 ways that you and your loved ones can stay healthy this cold and flu season.

12 Tips for Staying Healthy

Below, you’ll find 12 practical tips that you can use to stay healthy:

Avoid crowds/unnecessary travel

As the year comes to a close, we’re entering the holiday season: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year- which, for many, means traveling to visit loved ones. However, it’s important to note that crowds increase your risk of catching a cold or flu. Therefore, try to avoid large crowds, especially in spaces with poor ventilation. If you are in close quarters, try keeping a distance of 6 feet or more.

Avoid touching your face

This advice was re-iterated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also applies to cold and flu season. Illness can enter your body through the mucous membranes of your mouth, nose, and eyes. When you touch your face, you potentially speed up the process- so, to reduce your risk of getting sick, try to avoid touching your face as much as possible.

Stay Hydrated

Your body can fight off infection better if you stay hydrated- especially if you drink hot teas or plain water. Keep in mind that caffeinated drinks actually cause dehydration. According to the experts, adequate hydration for women is 91 ounces and adequate hydration for men is 125 ounces- and only 80% should come from beverages, while 20% should come from food.

Stay Active

Moderate exercise improves your immune system and can reduce your risk of catching a cold or flu. Even 20 to 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week can be helpful. It’s also important to note that staying active reduces your risk of other chronic health conditions such as respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic diseases.

Get a Flu Vaccine

Seniors are at an increased risk of developing complications and are likely to be hospitalized due to complications of the flu. Therefore, you should get your flu vaccine– but consult with your medical provider to make sure you don’t have any underlying health conditions that could be aggravated by it.

Get a Pneumonia Vaccine

If you do come down with the flu, it’s important to note that it may develop into pneumonia, which can be deadly for older adults. In addition to getting the flu vaccine, you should talk with your medical provider about the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects you against certain strains of bacterial pneumonia.

Wear a Mask

We heard this a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also applies during cold and flu season. If you are sick, wearing a mask can keep you from spreading it and it can also keep you from catching someone else’s illness. A mask should fit snugly under your chin and over your nose. Ideally, you should wear a two-layer mask or doubled gaiter, not a handkerchief, scarf, balaclava, face shield alone, or a mask with exhalation vents.

Keep Your Environment Clean

Make sure to take the time to wipe down surfaces that get touched a lot such as light switches, doorknobs, and other household items. You should also clean your mobile devices with sanitizing wipes or alcohol pads but avoid getting them wet.

Avoid Anyone Who is Sick

One way to keep yourself healthy is to avoid anyone that is sick. If you find yourself in close proximity to someone that is sick, limit your contact with them: avoid hugging or shaking hands, and don’t touch anything they have.

Stay Away if You’re Sick

If you’re sick, it’s important that you stay home so that you can protect others. Everyone else is trying to stay healthy too- and don’t want to interact with sick people. If you must get out, wear a mask and avoid touching things unnecessarily.

Increase Your Vitamin C

While it may not keep you from getting sick, research shows that increasing your vitamin C may reduce the severity and duration of the illness if you do get sick. Ideally, you should get your vitamin C through foods, but a 200-milligram supplement can also help.

Wash Your Hands

This is another tip that we heard a lot about during the pandemic. Washing your hands with soap and water can remove germs and viruses from your hands. When you wash, you should scrub vigorously for 20 seconds, which is the time it takes to sing the birthday song twice. The water doesn’t need to be hot- the scrubbing gets rid of the germs. You should also have an alcohol-based sanitizer handy in case you can’t get to soap and water.

What Should You Do if You Get Sick?

In healthy individuals, the flu usually lasts 3 to 7 days- but may last longer in seniors due to their weakened immune system. If you do get sick, even if you’re not sure it’s the flu, contact your medical provider. They can give you a diagnosis. Here’s what you should do if you feel like you’re sick:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Eat chicken soup
  • Get a prescription for an antiviral
  • Rest/sleep at a 45° angle
  • Use a humidifier

If you do get sick and need extra help, contact Gentle Shepherd Home Care. We provide a variety of services to support your health and well-being. We can help with transportation to and from medical appointments, meal preparation, cleaning, and more.  
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