Avoiding The Flu
Every year the flu kills thousands
of Americans of all ages, but seniors tend to
take the worst of it. And there's just no way of knowing how
each person will react to the flu. Avoiding the flu to begin
takes diligence but is the surest way to make sure there are no long
term or deadly effects.
If someone is in relatively good
health and only suffers the normal flu symptoms of headache, fever,
chills, nausea, etc., then recovery from the flu is most likely in
7-10 days. Early medical treatment and getting on Tamiflu can
shorten the illness. The flu can however, morph into a variety
of other illnesses such as pneumonia or other respiratory illnesses,
or dehydration, and it can lower the immune system to make other
illnesses much more likely and severe.
Getting the flu vaccine is easily
the best thing that most people can do to avoid the flu. This
is not however, a license to act recklessly. Even with the flu
vaccine, you are not guaranteed to not get the flu. You must
still practice prevention.
The other issue with the flu
vaccine is that you are not immediately protected. It could be
as much as 10 days before you have built adequate flu resistance in
your body. If you have already picked up the virus by then,
you could still get very sick.
Bottom line, get the flu vaccine
with your doctor's advice, but act like you haven't gotten it.
Where the flu virus starts
Avoiding the flu means staying away
from live virus and avoiding the ways that it is transmitted.
While the flu virus can be transmitted by someone in close proximity
such as through coughing and sneezing, most people get it through
contact surfaces that we don't think about.
You should understand that the flu
virus lives longer outside the body than the cold virus and may be
alive as much as 72 hours later. This happens especially with
hard and non-porous surfaces.
When someone sneezes or wipes their
mouth on their hand and then touches something, that
"something" can hold that virus for a couple of
days. If you touch it, that virus can then be transferred to
your hand. From here, all it takes is scratching a nose or the
edge of your eye, putting a piece of candy in your mouth, or
anything else that allows that virus an opening into either an eye,
the nose, or the mouth. It doesn't take much.
H1N1 Swine Flu
While the H1N1 or Swine Flu virus
has been around for awhile, we have heard a lot more about it
recently and it has become much more prolific this time
Unfortunately, many seniors also
have a lot of misinformation about it and its effects. The
curious thing about the H1N1 virus is that populations such as
seniors who tend to be effected by the flu virus find themselves
less so this time around.
The bad news is that many people
are translating that to mean that seniors can't get the H1N1 flu
virus. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Seniors are still likely to get the
flu if exposed, and it can still be deadly. Do not take this
Avoiding the flu virus
Avoiding the flu virus means
staying away from people who have the flu and being thoughtful about
1) The best way to start is
staying out of crowded places. In crowds, a simply sneeze from
several people away can carry enough virus to make many people
sick. Crowds aside though, it only takes one person who might
not even be symptomatic to pass along the bug.
2) This of course means that
you need to take charge of sanitation around you. Don't stand
around and talk to people if they are exhibiting symptoms at
all. Excuse yourself from shaking hands this time of
year. Explain to others that you are being careful and most
people will understand. This might be your best friend, but do
you know everything she has touched since she last washed her hands?
3) Wash your hands frequently
and carry and use a bottle of alcohol hand sanitizer around with you
wherever you go. Offer a bit to those around you as a gesture
of friendship and don't feel shy about using it yourself.
Unlike using antibacterial soap, using soap and water and alcohol
sanitizer doesn't make you more vulnerable to germs.
4) Keep your hands to
yourself. If you can't avoid touching things like doorknobs,
railings, escalator rails, and seats in airplanes, keep your hands
away from your face until you can wash thoroughly or use your
sanitizer. Keep the flu virus away from eyes, nose, and mouth
where it can make an easy entry.
Shop at stores where they offer
sanitizer wipes and use them on the cart handle. Grab an extra
one and take it with you as you go through the store. As you
open freezer and cooler doors, use the sanitizer wipe like you would
a hot-mitt, and then dispose of it as you leave the store.
5) Use a saline nasal rinse
at least once daily. Kits such as the NeilMed kit are
available at most WalMarts for about $11.00 and refills are
cheap. Rinsing your nasal passages is a bit tough at first,
but remember that about 70% of the air that goes into your body goes
through your nose. As dust collects, it makes a great place
for virus and bacteria to collect. Rinsing it out daily is a
good step to overall body health as well as preventing the flu.
6) Get exercise, a good
night's sleep, eat a nutritious diet, avoid junk food, and take a
multivitamin daily. These are all important to keeping your
body's immune system at its peak.
7) Drink plenty of
water. If your blood had blood, it would be water.
Without water, your body cannot use food properly, it can't clean
itself, it can't heal itself, and it can't keep your immune system
8) When anyone comes over for
a visit, ask them to wash their hands when they come into the
house. We all want the kids and grandkids to come over and we
love our friends. But they will bring everything with them
that they've picked up since they washed last. This won't
prevent the flu, but it can cut the odds dramatically.
9) Even with all these
precautions, people can still bring stuff into your house.
Open windows on nice days and let the air exchange. Run air
cleaners when windows are down to keep the dust in check, and
generally keep things clean.
A bleachy cloth run over handles, light switches,
and other surfaces that people touch after everyone leaves is also a
good idea. Don't forget the bathroom. People spit, wash
their face, brush their teeth, and generally have lots of body
contact with surfaces here.
10) Wash washcloths and towels
often, including those in the kitchen. They may be
theoretically only used to wipe off water, but it often doesn't work
out that way.
If you start getting the flu
Unfortunately, we can't always do
everything we should to stay healthy. We can make mistakes or
assumptions about other people and their habits, or just not think.
If you start getting sick, get to
your doctor immediately. Tamiflu is likely to be your best
shot at cutting the flu virus off short, but your doctor will have
to make the flu diagnosis and prescribe the medication.
Even if you get the flu, still keep
your own hands watched. You are now contagious and can infect
Be sure to keep drinking water and
get as much sleep as possible. These are two of the biggest
ways you can protect your health and cut the effects of the flu