CLEVELAND – While some of us welcome the beauty of the crisp winter season, enduring the ‘cold and flu’ season that comes along with it is typically not as welcome.
According to Ronan Factora, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, cold and flu season can be downright dangerous for the elderly.
He said the flu, especially, is associated with a higher risk of hospitalization and death for those over the age of 65.
“Once you do actually recover from the flu it is not an uncommon complication for people to develop a pneumonia afterwards in the recovery phase and that can lead people to the hospital,” said Dr. Factora.
Dr. Factora said the best way to protect against the flu is to get an annual flu vaccine.
He said this year has been especially difficult because the flu season started early and has been impacted by a strain of the virus that has proven difficult for the vaccine to combat.
But even those who have had the vaccine and are worried about its effectiveness, or for those who haven’t been vaccinated, there are some things that they can do to help protect against illness.
Dr. Factora said the best thing to do is practice good hand hygiene and to steer clear of others who show symptoms of cold or flu.
“It’s best to just stay away from individuals who appear ill,” he said. “It’s a good idea to keep on washing your hands and use hand sanitizer. If you have cold symptoms, make sure to cough into your sleeve, bring tissues and make sure you throw those away after using them.”
Dr. Factora said it’s common for people who become ill after age 65 to notice that it takes longer to recover from an illness than when they were younger.
Also, having certain medical conditions may make it more difficult to fight off cold and flu bugs.
“If you have conditions like emphysema, or if you have diabetes, you could be more pre-disposed to illness,” said Dr. Factora. “If you’ve been having problems with maintaining your weight, and you’re losing weight – malnutrition can be a pre-disposing factor to getting ill as well.”