It’s that time of year again, people are coughing and sneezing and struggling to work, shop or cook. Is it a cold or the flu? If it is the flu, it is important to limit your exposure to those most vulnerable to contagious diseases.

According to Senior Directory, older people and people with chronic illnesses are at the greatest risk of getting complications from the flu, such as pneumonia becuase the elderly have reduced cough and gag reflexes. And their immune systems are also not as strong.

Consider these frightening facts: of all age groups, people over 84 are at the highest risk of dying from flu complications. People over 74 face the second highest risk. Children under age 4 face the third highest risk.

How can you tell if you may have the flu?

Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle aches

Stomach symptoms — including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea — may occur, but are more common in children. Complications of flu can include pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions including lung conditions, such as asthma and emphysema, and heart disease.

How can you prevent the flu?

Get an annual flu shot. Flu viruses change constantly so you need a flu shot once a year, prefereably in the fall. It works. The flu shot reduces hospitalization by about 70% and death by about 85% among older people who do not live in nursing homes, according to the National Institute on Aging.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that senior citizens also get the pneumococcal vaccine, which helps prevent a leading cause of bacterial pneumonia in the elderly. It can be given at the same time as the flu shot.

We hope you will share this information with your loved ones. If you have an older adult who may need help, please call Danville Support Services. We provide many different types of services including wellness checks, companionship and transportation to and from the doctor’s office and drug store (to get that flu shot).