Cold & Flu Prevention

It’s that time of year again.  Cold and flu season is here.

Should you be concerned if you are caring for an older adult?  The answer is yes.  The weaker immune system of older adults makes them more susceptible to becoming ill from cold and flu viruses.  The stress of caregiving can leave caregivers vulnerable to cold and flu viruses as well.

There’s a lot you can do to reduce the chances of becoming ill from a cold or flu virus. Take the following precautions to protect both you and your loved ones:

Get a Flu Shot
The influenza vaccine is the best way to reduce the misery of the flu and its complications.  If you do become sick, a flu shot may reduce the severity of the illness.  It takes about two weeks for your immune system to respond after a flu shot.  Having the vaccine right before flu season peaks (between the beginning of December and late February) gives you the best chance of fighting the flu.

Wash Your Hands Regularly
Frequent and proper handwashing reduces the chance of catching a cold or coming down with the flu.  Washing your hands with plain soap and water for at least 20 seconds will eliminate most germs.  When washing your hands, make sure to scrub the back of your hands, under your nails and in between your fingers.  If you don’t have access to soap and a sink, a gel sanitizer or an alcohol-based hand wipe can keep your hands disinfected and clean.

Grab a Paper Towel
A paper towel can protect you from germs that hang around after you’ve washed your hands.  After washing your hands, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet.  If you are in a bathroom, use the same paper towel to open the door.  Paper towels can also be used to push elevator buttons, pick up telephones and protect your hands from other germ-infested surfaces.

Don’t Touch Your Nose or Face

Keeping your hands away from your mouth, nose, and face will prevent most viruses from passing via mucous fluids.

Keep Your Environment Clean
Prevent cold and flu illnesses by disinfecting and keeping common areas around the home germ-free, especially the bathroom and kitchen.  Doorknobs, light switches, and countertops also harbor germs so be sure keep these surfaces clean as well.

Keep Cell Phones and Keyboards Clean
Germs love cell phones and keyboards.  Keep these items clean and disinfected with sanitizing wipes or rubbing alcohol to eliminate cold and flu viruses.

Stay Away From Sick People
It goes without saying that steering clear of sick individuals will help reduce the chances of becoming ill from a cold or flu virus.  If you have to be around a sick individual, limit your contact and wash your hands regularly.

Stay Healthy
Exercising regularly, eating well and getting plenty of sleep builds a healthy immune system which can help you fight a cold or flu virus.  Some studies have shown that a little extra Vitamin C (but not too much) can reduce the risk of getting sick.

Following these tips will help you and your older parent or relative stay healthy during the cold and flu season.