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Every year, five million people worldwide become ill with the flu. The most vulnerable populations? The very young and the elderly. Nursing-home residents are most at risk, but even those who live independently are susceptible. Luckily, up to 80% of deaths can be prevented simply by getting a flu shot. Those who come in contact with at-risk populations, such as in-home care workers, should also be vaccinated.
Aside from getting an annual flu shot, the Centers for Disease Control recommends a few preventative tactics everyone should practice to help avoid getting sick. Make sure your elderly relative knows to wash his or her hands frequently with soap and water, and to avoid touching his or her eyes, nose, and mouth, as those are the most frequent places viruses will invade.
If, even after having been vaccinated, your loved one becomes ill, there are steps they can take to reduce the severity of the illness. Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu and Flumadine can lessen the symptoms and possibly prevent severe complications. However, they must be prescribed quickly – within 48 hours of the start of symptoms. In-home care staff should be diligent in watching for the signs of flu, which include sudden onset of high fever, dry cough, persistent headache, muscle aches, and sore throat.
Flu season is just around the corner. Contact your relative’s doctor to find out when vaccines will be available in their area, and make sure in-home care workers are vaccinated as well. With a little preventative medicine, the elderly can have a flu-free winter.
Originally posted 2010-09-27 14:00:00.