Preventing illness from flu, viruses: With a risk of complications, prevention is key
COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Health reported last week that there have been more than 4,400 hospitalizations due to flu in Ohio during the 2019-2020 flu season. Older adults are at increased risk of complications from the flu, which can include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, and more. Flu can also make chronic health conditions like asthma and heart failure worse. These complications can lead to serious illness and even death.
The Ohio Department of Aging advises older Ohioans and anyone who spends time with older adults to take steps to avoid getting and spreading the flu.
“Each older Ohioan should take every precaution possible to protect themselves from the flu. This includes getting a flu shot and adopting healthy habits,” said Ursel McElroy, director of the Ohio Department of Aging. “Likewise, anyone who lives with or cares for an older adult should take steps to prevent getting the flu and passing it to those around them.”
Flu season is typically from October through May in Ohio. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designated current flu activity in Ohio as “widespread.” The Ohio Department of Health called the flu Ohio’s primary infectious disease threat.
It is not too late to get a flu shot. A shot today can provide protection for the remainder of the season. Shots are still widely available and are covered by Medicare Part B with no copay for adults age 65 and older.
Much attention is being given to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019 nCoV). Ohio health officials point out that Ohioans are much more likely to get sick from the flu than 2019 nCoV. However, the general public can take the usual, recommended actions to prevent infection.
• Frequently wash your hands for 20 seconds or more with soapy water.
• Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you are unable to wash your hands.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
• Get plenty sleep and manage stress.
• Eat well and stay as physically active as possible to ensure a healthy immune system.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Avoid contact with people who are sick and things they may have touched.
Flu symptoms may come on quickly and include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you think you may have the flu, limit the time you spend with others until you are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of medicine. Stay home while you are sick (except to visit a health care professional) and avoid close contact with others. Call ahead to doctor’s offices, nursing homes, and senior centers to see if they have visitation restrictions for those who have flu-like symptoms. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
If you get the flu, proper care can lessen symptoms and decrease the time you are ill. Drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost through fever and sweating. Talk to your health care provider about medicines you can take to manage your symptoms and how they may interact with other medicines you take.
Visit www.flu.ohio.gov for information and resources to help you fight the flu.