While the fall and winter seasons bring the joys of the holidays, cooler weather and all things cozy, the pesky cold and flu also tag along. Unfortunately, older adults are more susceptible to serious symptoms of cold and flu. And while anyone could come down with one of these illnesses year-round, the cooler months are their peak season. So now is the most important time to take precautions. Here are three tips to help you minimize your risk of cold and flu.
1. Stay Updated on Vaccines
Getting vaccinated is the best defense we have against catching the flu. And if you do get ill, symptoms tend to be milder if you have been vaccinated. The flu virus evolves every year, and so does the formula designed to fight it. This is why it’s so important to get this vaccine yearly.
It’s also not uncommon for the flu to cause pneumonia in older adults. Since this sickness can quickly become life-threatening if untreated, the pneumococcal vaccine is another important one for seniors.
Other respiratory viruses, like COVID-19, also circulate during this time of year. The CDC recommends that adults 18 and older get their COVID-19 vaccine and available boosters – especially those who have immunodeficiencies.
2. Avoid Crowds and Traveling Unnecessarily
Unfortunately, the cold and flu season coincides with major holidays. The cold, flu and COVID-19 are all transmitted through droplets from sneezing or coughing, which are easy to inhale when you’re in close quarters with others. Understandably, crowded events, traveling and family gatherings may cause apprehension in older adults because of this. However, celebrating and spending time with your loved ones is an important part of the holiday season that you should enjoy.
Try to limit the amount of unnecessary travel you’re doing or travel in ways that allow you to keep a safe distance (six feet apart) from others to mitigate the spread of these illnesses – like driving rather than flying, if at all feasible. Wearing a mask can add a layer of protection if you need to travel or can’t avoid large crowds. Plan gatherings in large, open spaces with good air circulation so you can celebrate with your loved ones safely.
3. Practice Good Health Habits
Practicing healthy habits year-round can help keep your immune system strong. Here are some healthy habits you should prioritize.
Eat a Balanced Diet
It’s okay to indulge here and there in your favorite holiday treats, but overall, try to eat a nutritious diet full of immune-boosting fruits and vegetables like citrus, eggs and certain meats and dairy products. It also doesn’t hurt to speak with your healthcare provider to see what vitamins and supplements you can take to support your immune system.
Since dehydration is common among older adults, you want to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to keep your body healthy. In addition, stay on top of any chronic illnesses you may have by keeping up with your prescribed medications.
An enriching daily routine can help you keep stress levels low, which is important since chronic stress can have negative effects on your immune system. Here are some ways for seniors to decrease stress and improve wellness:
- Practice mindfulness. Meditation and journaling can help you stay present and release tension.
- Spend time outdoors. Take a walk around your senior living community’s walking paths or play golf on the putting green – Harbour’s Edge has both!
- Visit with loved ones
- Make time for your favorite hobbies, like crafting or reading
- Get active at your community’s fitness center or take an exercise class, like aerobics
Sleep is also a critical part of maintaining good health. Be sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night to give your body the rest and recovery it needs.
Use Good Hygiene
Regular hand washing is a great strategy for getting rid of the cold and flu germs you may pick up throughout your daily life. If you can’t get to soap and water, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol is a good temporary solution. Since these viruses get in through your respiratory system, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly.
Finally, if you do start to feel under the weather, keep an eye out for these cold and flu symptoms so that you can treat them quickly.
Explore Wellness Resources at Harbour’s Edge
At Harbour’s Edge, our resident’s health and well-being come first. Our purposeful programming and tailored wellness plans empower older adults to protect their health. In addition, our nutritious (and delicious) chef-prepared meals, socially enriching community, on-site clinic and more make it easier to live a healthy lifestyle that makes retirement a true joy.
If you’d like to learn more about the community at Harbour’s Edge or the numerous services and amenities we offer, contact us today or complete the form below.