It has been a very difficult flu season across the nation. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, the 2017-18 influenza season has brought a total of 66,373 cases to the state of Missouri. Of these positive cases, 11,269 have been in individuals aged 65 and older. The aging population is also more likely to suffer serious complications, making flu awareness even more vital.
The CDC warns that influenza awareness and prevention are still very important and there are still weeks of flu season ahead. So, how can we beat the flu?
Know the flu. The flu comes on suddenly and typically involves a fever (not always) or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. Occasionally, there is also vomiting and diarrhea.
Practice prevention. The flu shot is recommended for most individuals, particularly those over age 65. Talk to your doctor about taking this step; and if you haven’t already this year, it is not too late. However, remember that it is not always effective, so you must practice wise habits; eating healthy, exercising, reducing stress, getting plenty of sleep and taking doctor-recommended supplements all contribute to a stronger immune system. Stay away from people with symptoms and avoiding close contact in crowds. Washing hands frequently and properly is perhaps the most important preventative step.
Know your risk. Everyone 65 years and older is considered at high risk for developing serious complications. Conditions such as asthma, heart disease and many other disorders heighten the risk even further. If your risk is higher, talk to your health provider about a course of action should flu symptoms develop.
Treat the flu. As soon as symptoms develop, high-risk individuals should visit their healthcare provider. In some instances, medication will be prescribed to limit the severity and duration of the illness. In others, there will be close monitoring and treatment of symptoms. Staying hydrated and keeping fever at bay are especially important in aging individuals.
Know the signs of trouble. Influenza can make chronic medical conditions worse, so watch for worsening symptoms of those conditions. Also seek medical help immediately for difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting or flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
We wish you great health in the months ahead!