Flu can cause serious issues for senior adults

Published 2:08 am Friday, February 1, 2019

With flu season at peak levels, local nurse practitioner Sherry Wright reminds senior residents and their caregivers that flu makes chronic conditions worse.

“It’s especially critical for patients 65 and older, especially those with decreased immune systems,” she said. “Getting the flu makes it harder to fight, especially for those with COPD, diabetes, asthma or heart disease.”

Normally, she said, senior patients with those underlying conditions who develop the flu need to be hospitalized.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 85 percent of flu-related deaths occur in seniors older than 65.

Prevention is still the best defense, she said.

“Flu vaccines are usually good for several weeks,” she said. “Here we are at peak season. If you got your shot when they first came out, the effectiveness might be wearing off.”

For those who have not been vaccinated this year, it’s not too late; flu shots are still available, she said, adding that it takes about two weeks after the shot to build up immunity to flu viruses.

She also advises senior citizens to stay in as much as possible, and avoid public places where flu is likely to spread. If you do get out in public, she advises frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer.

“At our church, we’ve limited the meeting and greeting part of the service,” she said. “As Southerners, we love to hug and love on some people, but right now is not a good time.”

Wright said doctors and nurses at Andalusia Family Health clinic are seeing lots of flu.

“The majority has been Flu A,” she said. “But we’ve also had two cases of Flu B.”

Typically with Flu A, symptoms are respiratory related, while Flu B has been presenting with gastrointestinal issues, she said.

If caught within the first 48 hours of symptoms, Tamiflu and other choices of medications can make the symptoms milder, she said.

“It does not cure the flu, it just makes the symptoms milder,” she said.

Catch within 48 hours,

After 48 hours, the best remedy is to alternate Tylenol and Motrin for fever, drink plenty of liquids, and let it run its course, she said.

“The most common complication for seniors is pneumonia,” Wright said.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, fever that can’t be controlled by Tylenol and Motrin, chills, and gastric issues.

“Older patients who have these symptoms need to be seeking medical care,” Wright said. “And typically, they will be admitted.”

Wright said it is critically important for seniors who develop pneumonia to be closely monitored.

“It can be detrimental to send them home,” she said.