Winter is nearly upon us, and so is the cold and flu season. These illnesses are more common this time of year, increasing your risk of getting sick. Avoiding illness is important for many older adults. You may have health conditions that make the effects of sickness worse, as well as children, grandchildren and loved ones you don’t want to spread illness to!
Here are four easy ways to help you avoid common winter illnesses.
Get a flu shot
Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is an illness caused by one of many viruses. Whilst it is somewhat common, it can be very severe. Complications from the flu can be devastating for some people. These may include bronchitis or pneumonia.
Getting an annual flu vaccination may be especially important for older adults. Influenza can weaken our immune system, making it harder to fight off other illnesses. New Zealand doctors generally recommend that people aged 65 and older receive a flu vaccination every year. Check with your GP, as they can advise if you are healthy enough to receive the vaccination and whether you qualify for a free one.
It’s also important to remember that a flu vaccination does not protect you against colds. The common cold is a different illness that people often mistaken for the flu. There is no vaccination for colds, but our next few tips could help you fight them and other illnesses.
Build a strong immune system
A strong, healthy immune system can help keep us from getting sick. There are many steps you can take to help “boost” your immunities, but the most doctor-approved methods boil down to living a healthy lifestyle.
Diet and exercise may play big parts in building the immune system. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables could help insure you’re getting enough of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to fight infection. Exercise is also important for good general health, and in turn may help the immune system. Even just 10 minutes of brisk walking every day could help improve a person’s health!
Other healthy habits that may strengthen the immune system include drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep. Before making any changes to your diet, exercise programme, or lifestyle you may want to speak with your doctor for advice or recommendations.
Practice good hygiene
The germs and viruses that cause illness can live for hours (or sometimes even longer) on some surfaces. If you’re sick, you could unknowingly pass your germs to a family member or friend. Touching common areas, such as door knobs or telephones is often how infections spreads.
Simple hygiene steps can help you stop the spread of illness and stay well yourself. Washing your hands regularly is a great first step. This is especially important before preparing or serving food, after using the toilet or after touching common areas. You may also want to wash your hands after going to the shops during cold and flu season or if you’ve visited someone in hospital.
Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing is also helpful. As the flu and other illnesses an spread through the air, keeping these germs “close by” could help prevent this. If you’re visiting the doctor’s office or hospital whilst sick, ask for a face mask. It’s considerate to those around you, and will save you from coughing or sneezing into your hand or arm!
Stay away from people showing symptoms
Avoiding illness may sometimes call for stronger measures. The steps above aren’t always foolproof, so staying away from those who are ill may be a better option. This may help sickness from spreading between family members, friends or others in your community.
If a loved one relies on you for care, you may need to be around them whlist they are ill. Otherwise, it might be wise to reschedule visits until they are well. This may be tough, as we often want to provide company or support to ailing family and friends. However, they will likely appreciate your concerns, especially if you have health issues that put you more at risk of getting sick.
It can be possible to come into contact with germs and viruses in public spaces, as well. Washing your hands can help, along with using hand sanitizer in some instances. You can also help lower your chances of falling ill by staying at least a metre away from anyone showing symptoms.
A safe and healthy season
This winter, take some steps to help reduce your risk of falling ill. This could not only support your own health and wellbeing, but also that of your family and friends.