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Why the Flu Shot is Especially Important This Year

Monday , August 31 , 2020

Why the Flu Shot is Especially Important This Year

This autumn, doctors and healthcare systems will be dealing with two circulating viruses: the novel coronavirus and influenza.

It’s fair to say that flu season is going to look a lot different as the country struggles to control a coronavirus pandemic that has already killed more than 191,000 people.

Many Americans are reluctant to visit a doctor’s office or even to walk into a pharmacy for fear of being exposed to germs – but by getting the flu shot, you can effectively help doctors take one problem off the table.

What is Influenza?

Although sometimes thought of as “just a bad cold,” the flu kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. every year. Often, the very young, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions are the most vulnerable.

Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue. In more serious cases, severe dehydration, chest pressure, and shortness of breath may occur.

When coupled with the effects of Covid-19, experts say the flu could be more dangerous than ever.

A Flu Vaccine is the Best Protection Against Flu 

The power of the flu vaccine is twofold.

According to the Henry Ford Health System, if enough young, healthy people get vaccinated, they can help protect high-risk groups through something called “herd immunity.” In layman’s terms, the more people that get the flu shot, the less likely the virus is to be transmitted to others.

For those that are high-risk themselves, the flu shot is even more important. The CDC says this is especially true for adults aged 65 and older, who account for most hospitalizations and deaths from the flu each year. Because of immune system changes as we age, older adults are far more likely to experience severe flu complications compared with a younger population – and a flu shot provides the best protection.

When Should I Get My Flu Shot?

Advertising has already begun and most pharmacies already have their flu vaccines in stock, however it’s not necessary to rush out and get your shot just yet. Generally, influenza viruses start circulating in mid- to late October, but don’t reach their peak until later in the winter.

Because it takes about two weeks to build up antibodies after receiving a vaccine, the CDC recommends that older adults get the shot by the end of October.

How Effective is the Flu Shot?

Flu vaccines are developed anew each year because influenza viruses mutate. Because of this, the flu shot ranges in effectiveness each year, depending on how well scientists matched the circulating strain. Last year’s shot, for example, was estimated to be about 45% effective in preventing the flu overall.

It isn’t yet know how effective this year’s flu vaccine will be, however with people practicing social distancing and wearing masks, flu cases are expected to be fewer overall.

It is important to note, as well, that even if you still get the flu, your illness is likely to be less lengthy and severe if you have received the vaccine beforehand.

Bottom Line

Flu shots help protect you against getting the flu and make you less likely to spread it to others. By staying healthy, you’ll help keep hospitals and medical facilities from becoming overwhelmed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Posted in: Health

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Why You Should Worry About the Flu, Not Coronavirus

Monday , February 24 , 2020

Why You Should Worry About the Flu, Not Coronavirus

The Corona Virus (COVID-19) is all over the news. People around the world are worried about contracting the deadly disease.

Here, in the United States, do you need to be concerned?

Just like the common cold, COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system and causes symptoms like fever and cough.  People feel ill because they’ve never encountered this virus before and need time to build up an immunity.

But the bottom line is this: We are still in flu season and that’s a more immediate danger – especially to seniors. If you are an older adult, use these tips to help reduce the chance of getting either illness:

You Are Likely to Get Sick

As we age, our frequency of illness becomes less and less. That’s because a lifetime of sicknesses has helped build up an immunity to many common viruses and bacteria.

Still, viruses mutate all the time – that’s why you catch colds every year.

COVID-19 is in a class of viruses referred to as human coronaviruses (HCoVs) – the same type of illness that causes epidemics such as SARS and MERS. While these viruses are absolutely terrifying, they’re also generally easy to contain.

The World Health Organization constantly monitors new outbreaks of such illnesses and works with health agencies around the world to prevent pandemics. Currently, although the newest coronavirus outbreak has spread outside of China, the mortality rate has been very low.

So far, COVID-19 has causes more than 75,000 illnesses and 2,000 deaths. That may seem like a lot, but it’s nothing when compared with the flu, which has already caused an estimated 26 million illnesses and 14,000 deaths just this season.

How to Stay Healthy

The CDC recommends that all people over the age of 6 months get vaccinated against the flu. Because people aged 65 years and old are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from flu compared to younger adults, there are two vaccines designed specifically for the older population.

In addition to getting the flu shot, the CDC recommends these everyday preventative measures:

  • Avoid close contact: Avoid being in close contact with people who are sick. Likewise, if you are sick, stay home whenever possible to avoid spreading germs.
  • Wash your hands: Washing your hands is the single-most effective way to avoid sickness during cold and flu season. Sing the ABC song or Happy Birthday to ensure you’re washing for the appropriate length of time.
  • Avoid touching your face: Try to hold off on scratching your nose, putting your fingers near your eyes, picking up food with your fingers, or anything else that may put your hands near your face. Germy fingers near open orifices is one of the fastest ways to fall ill!
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces: Those with cold and flu can spread germs up to seven days after being ill. To stay safe, regularly disinfect all surfaces in your home – even if you and those around you seem well.
  • Practice good health habits: A strong, healthy body is more likely to fight off illness than one that is run down and worn. Try to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and take measures to stay stress-free.

Posted in: Health

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Common Reasons Seniors End Up In The ER

Monday , January 6 , 2020

Common Reasons Seniors End Up In The ER

Heart attacks, strokes, broken hips: These are things we think of when a senior citizen heads to the ER.

But the fact is, older adults can end up in the emergency room for many different reasons – and even though dehydration or flu don’t sound as critical as heart failure, they can be just as dangerous.

Keep reading for some of the most common reasons seniors end up in the ER and some precautions you can take to help avoid accidents and injury:

Fall-Related Injuries

Falling is the number one source of injury for older adults. According to the National Council on Aging, one in four adults aged 65+ will fall each year. Every 19 minutes, one of those fall victims dies.

Falls can cause everything from broken bones to head trauma – and when it comes to avoiding those (and more serious) injuries, prevention is key.

If you want to make falls less likely, experts recommend the following:

  • Conduct a safety check in your home and remove tripping hazards such as loose wires, slippery rugs, and common household clutter
  • Maintain proper lighting throughout your home
  • Wear sturdy, non-slip shoes (both in the home and out)
  • Have your hearing and vision checked regularly
  • Talk to your doctor about an exercise program that can help you maintain the strength of your bones and muscles
  • Be aware of the weather: Icy, slippery sidewalks and stairs can make falls more likely and hot, dry conditions can lead to dehydration and fainting

Heart Disease

Heart-related emergencies result in 1.8 million trips by seniors to the ER every year. Common complaints include chest pains, shortness of breath, and exhaustion – symptoms which should not be ignored. Medicare Part B covers cardiovascular disease screening tests, so make sure you get checked regularly for condition which may lead to heart disease (like high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels).

Note: Chest pain is not always an indicator of heart disease. There are many other conditions which can cause similar discomfort, including respiratory infections and gastrointestinal problems.

Stroke

Stroke is often referred to as the “silent killer” because signs and symptoms – which can mimic dozens of other health issues – are often ignored. Strokes generally don’t cause any pain, but indicators may include confusion, dizziness, severe headache, trouble speaking, and more.

You can reduce your chances of stroke by maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, controlling your blood pressure, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco products.

Dehydration

One of the hallmarks of old age is a decreased sense of thirst. Because seniors don’t feel as parched as younger adults, they are more likely to suffer from dehydration and related illnesses – especially during the summer.

Though it may seem not-so-serious, dehydration can lead to several serious health problems, up to and including death. To help stay hydrated, drink plenty of water throughout the day and eat foods with high water content (such as fruits, vegetables, soups, and yogurts).

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 16 million people affected. The disorder isn’t just one disease, but actually a group of lung diseases which obstruct airflow. Shortness of breath, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis are often symptoms.

Smoking is the main cause of COPD, and stopping smoking can go a long way to preventing the disease. Medicare Part B covers up to eight face-to-face counseling sessions per year for people who want to stop smoking.

Note: It is also important to avoid situations in which you may be exposed to second hand smoke, which can be just as dangerous!

Influenza and Pneumonia

If you want to avoid ending up in the ER this winter, one of the BEST things you can do is to get your flu and pneumonia shots. Medicare Part B covers both and, though they don’t cover every possible strain of the viruses, they offer a great safety net.

It is important to note that seniors often have weaker immune systems than younger adults, so even if you have gotten your shots, you should still avoid people who are sick (and remember to wash your hands after you go out in public!).

Adverse Drug Reactions

Many seniors take more than one medication, which means that it may be difficult to manage the schedule, potential interactions, and side effects – but failing to stick to the proper schedule, or ignoring harmful side effects, can quickly land you in the emergency room.

Drug interactions and reactions are one of the leading causes of senior visits to the ER. To help prevent this problem, make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions, avoid self-medication, and refill your drugs before you run out. If you’re on several medications and unsure of how they  may interact, you can ask the pharmacist if they’re safe to take together.

Bottom Line

Many of the issues that land older adults in the ER are entirely avoidable. With a little care and precaution, you can easily avoid an unexpected trip to the hospital.

Posted in: Aging

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