Flu shots urged for elderly

Published 6:18pm Wednesday, January 16, 2013

While Alabama residents are still feeling the effects of one of the worst flu seasons in years, doctors are specifically advising the elderly population to stay cautious in order to lessen their chance of catching the flu virus.

Senior citizens, defined as 65 years of age and older, are advised to take three crucial steps this flu season: get the flu shot, wash hands regularly and avoid large crowds.

Andrew Duxbury, associate professor at the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Medicine, said these three steps are of utmost importance in preventing the flu in the elderly.

“All immune systems weaken with age,” Duxbury said in a press release. “So when older people get the flu and get knocked down further they are more likely to get other infections, such as pneumonia.”

Duxbury said pneumonia-like symptoms in elderly can often cause a “spiral effect,” increasing the individual’s chance of worsening health.

To avoid worsening conditions, Duxbury recommended staying hydrated and making sure caregivers are staying sanitary, as they could pass on the flue virus.

“Older people also need to get out of bed at least a minimal amount and sit up,” Duxbury advised. “It’s better for lungs and helps avoid pneumonia.”

Duxbury also encouraged caregivers creating a “Plan B” in case they become ill.

“One way to make yourself sicker and make an illness last longer is to try to push through it,” he said. “Caregivers may feel obligated, but it’s a good time to think about your Plan B.”

Clinton Colmenares, director of communications for the UAB School of Medicine agreed and said the elderly should stay extra cautious this flu season and to get the flu shot if they haven’t already.

He also advised that if an elderly patient has a fever that lingers at 101 degrees to see a doctor immediately.

And although this flu season has proved severe, Duxbury said there’s no reason to call it a pandemic.

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