After eight months of taking precautions against catching COVID-19, you probably don’t want to hear about yet another infectious illness you need to guard against. Nevertheless, now that the weather is getting colder, it’s crucial you do everything you can to avoid getting the flu--especially if you are over 65 or have asthma, diabetes or heart disease. The good news is that there are simple things you can do to try and prevent the flu, like getting vaccinated. (Please delay getting your shot if you suspect you have COVID-19, though.)
Although no vaccines have yet been developed for COVID-19, several vaccines are on the market that can help protect you from catching the flu. Ask your doctor whether you should take a flu vaccine geared towards seniors--either Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent, which contains four times more antigen (the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu viruses) than regular vaccines, or the adjuvanted flu vaccine. Whichever one you choose, know that studies have consistently found that flu vaccine has reduced the risk of medical visits and hospitalizations associated with influenza.
You may not be aware of this, but some Sunshine Retirement Living communities offer on-site flu clinics. If they don’t offer this service, staff can arrange for transportation to your local pharmacy or medical clinic. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, consider asking for a pneumococcal vaccine along with a flu shot, as the flu can sometimes lead to pneumonia. (Other complications of the flu can include heart attacks, or dehydration, which can result in kidney problems or seizures.)
Practicing good public health hygiene can also go a long way to preventing the spread of flu. Both the flu and COVID-19 are spread by droplets or smaller virus particles from infected people or when people touch a surface with viruses on it and then touch their face, according to John Hopkins Medicine. Keep in mind that the measures used to prevent the spread of COVID-19--social distancing, mask-wearing, hand washing and avoiding crowds--can also reduce transmission of the flu.
Is it the flu or COVID-19?
There are similarities between the coronavirus and the influenza virus. Typical symptoms of both diseases include sore throat, cough, a runny nose, body aches, headache, shortness of breath, fatigue, and fever, though some people may not feel sick or show any symptoms. Some people with COVID-19 experience a change in or a loss of taste or smell—but that is not a flu symptom. Although COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and to cause more serious illnesses in some people, the flu can sometimes take a turn for the worse. In more serious cases of influenza, the warning signs are:
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Persistent dizziness or confusion
- Not urinating
- Severe muscle pain
- Severe weakness or unsteadiness
- Fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen
If flu symptoms last more than two days, get tested by a doctor immediately. You can be given antiviral drugs that can treat flu illness and prevent serious flu complications.
A side note on the Norovirus
Another virus you need to pay attention to is the norovirus, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain and is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States. Although most outbreaks occur in food service settings like restaurants, luckily, the chefs employed by Sunshine Retirement Living are extensively trained in norovirus prevention.
In fact, infection prevention is of utmost importance to Sunshine Retirement Living. Staff is rigorously trained on proper cleaning techniques and cleaners regularly disinfect surfaces, using cleaners/disinfectants geared to the norovirus, the coronavirus or the influenza virus. Check in with your retirement community to learn what their virus prevention is—and rest assured that keeping you safe and healthy is top of mind for us.