As the cold and flu season begins and we shift our attention to boosting immunity and protecting ourselves from bacteria and viruses, it is imperative to emphasize the importance of protective measures to keep the seniors healthy and in good shape to fight off any offending pathogens.
Although we generally think of cold and flu as being harmless, 85% of cold and flu-related deaths and 70% of flu hospitalizations occur in populations over 65 years of age. Seniors are an especially high-risk demographic because of weaker immune system functions. It is, therefore, very important to ensure proper immunity, hygiene, and lifestyle shifts that can help keep seniors healthy and able to fight off viruses and bacteria throughout the flu season. Here we’ve outlined a few important tips to help the elders stay in great health.
Eat A Balanced Diet
When it comes to good health and the ability to fight off illness, attention to the basics matters most. A proper and balanced diet is critical to support the immune system and fend off disease-causing pathogens. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean animal protein are a great way of keeping the immune system healthy and strong. Avoid processed foods, fried foods, sugar (fruit sugar is ok), and excessive caffeine intake.
Get Plenty Of Rest
It might seem to simple to mention but proper sleep plays a critical role in helping the body restore and replenish its ability to fight off illness. Since our energy use is reduced during sleep, our immune system has more energy available to use to heal and stay healthy. On average, 7-9 hours of sleep is recommended for optimal health and immune functions.
Protect The Sinuses
With age, the lining of nostrils becomes thinner making the sinuses more sensitive and prone to problems. The compromised sinus functions paired with the dry and cold air winter air often cause great discomfort and even serious complications associated with sinus infections in the elderly. Protecting sinuses is an important line of defense against cold and flu. To keep the sinuses healthy, we recommend using an all-natural saline nasal spray which is a safe and effective alternative to the dangerous medicated nasal sprays. Saline nasal spray helps both flush out irritants and viruses, and keep the nostrils moist and healthy. Learn more about why a dry nose is unhealthy on our blog.
Beware Of Drug Counter-Interactions
Negative drug interactions are a serious issue in the senior population. A recent study found that 10 million seniors experienced an adverse drug interaction in 2018. It is, therefore, imperative to ensure no negative counter interactions between cold medications, supplements, and existing prescription medications. What might be a safe over-the-counter cold remedy or immune supplement, might cause serious complications if mixed with some prescription medications. Many over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and antihistamine drugs can pose significant risks to the elderly. Make sure to always consult your doctor before taking any new supplements, over-the-counter medications, or medicinal herbs.
Double Down On Hygiene
Keeping good hygiene becomes even more critical during cold and flu season in high-risk populations like seniors. The flu virus can linger on objects and transfer by touching objects or surfaces, it is, therefore, very important to wash the hands often with hot water and soap or use hand sanitizers when hand washing isn’t available. Avoid touching the face without washed hands and use a sanitary wipe or rubbing alcohol to keep mobile devices clean.
Cold and flu in seniors can be dangerous but with proper hygiene and lifestyle choices, the risk and complications associated with getting sick can be reduced. Seniors who suspect they might have the flu must consult their doctor immediately due to the high risk of serious and fatal complications associated with the illness like pneumonia.