Sneezing Season

Tis the season for SNEEZING!  Many are already in the thick of it!  But allergies can be more than just a simple achooo!!!  Being attentive and proactive is key when it comes to seniors and allergies.  Check out this list from Christopher Randolph, MD, a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s Asthma & Allergic Diseases in the Elderly Committee be informed and ready to conquer allergy season.

  1. Randolph offers the following suggestions to help caregivers make allergy season more bearable for their loved ones:
  2. Look for the signs.Allergies don’t discriminate between the young and the old. Dr. Randolph says that people falsely assume the elderly do not get seasonal allergies when they are just as likely as anyone else to be affected when spring blooms begin to appear. In fact, adult-onset allergies are not unusual. Caregivers should be on the lookout for the traditional signs like sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy eyes so they can nip them in the bud.
  3. Inform their doctor. Randolph points out that it can be difficult for a physician to diagnose allergies in older individuals, especially when they’re focused on catching and managing larger health issues. Allergy symptoms can easily take a backseat to more weighty symptoms, like pain, depression, and changes in memory.
  4. Be aggressive.“Allergies have a larger impact on the lives and health of the elderly,” explains Dr. Randolph. It makes sense; allergy symptoms, such as a nasal congestion and an irritated throat can be extremely dangerous for seniors with pre-existing cardiovascular problems or lung disease. This is why Dr. Randolph feels that allergies in the elderly should be treated as rapidly and aggressively as possible.
  5. Avoid traditional antihistamines.Antihistamines, the class of drug most commonly prescribed to treat allergies, can be dangerous to seniors. Potential side effects from these medications, especially older varieties, include confusion, drowsiness, urine retention, dry mouth and eyes, and dizziness. In addition to these symptoms being irritating, they can contribute to dangerous falls and even urinary tract infections (UTIs). Furthermore, Dr. Randolph says that antihistamines can potentially cause changes in mood or behavior in the elderly and may lead to dangerous interactions with other commonly prescribed medications.
    Instead of reaching for an over-the-counter antihistamine, speak with your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist about alternative allergy treatments. They will likely recommend a nasal steroid or some form of topical medication.
  6. Try drug-free solutions.Seasonal allergies are triggered by increases of pollen and mold in the environment. Minimizing exposure to these allergens is an obvious way to avoid bothersome reactions. This is not always easy, but a few lifestyle changes can help.
    Getting outside to breathe in the fresh air, exercise and soak up a little sun is very important for seniors, but doing so during allergy season can leave them feeling worse afterward. Weather forecasts these days typically include a pollen count or allergy forecast. Use this to your advantage and try to avoid planning outdoor activities for when outdoor allergens are particularly high. If you and your loved one must go outside, remember to wear sunglasses to avoid eye irritation. As soon as you come home, make a point of washing your hands, showering and changing into fresh clothes to avoid introducing allergens into the house. If you and your loved one enjoy opening the windows for fresh air, try to do so only on low pollen days as well.
    Make sure that your air conditioning unit is serviced regularly and equipped with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter that can remove allergens from outside air to keep them from entering and circulating around the house. If your loved one also has indoor allergies to things like dust and pets, they may benefit from using an air purifier.

 

 

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Don’t Go Viral

I have to admit I was one of them.  You know the ones that boasted they had NEVER had the flu shot.  Now we would probably have to call my Mom to fact check me on this.  But to date, I have NEVER had the flu either.  But my mind was completely changed on the flu shot in 2010.  Why you ask?  Well, my entire household with the exception of yours truly got hit hard by the nasty flu bug.  How did I dodge the bullet?  Well, that was the first year that I took the shot as recommended by my boss since I had just started working in an assisted living.  The thought of what it meant to get an elderly person sick really made me realize I must do my part.  AND… I believe wholeheartedly the flu shot kept me WELL!!  My family was bedridden for days and I never had a sniffle.  With this week (October 16-22, 2016) being Infection Control Week, I thought it would be a great time to give a few tips to remember in reference to visiting assisted living communities during flu season.

When I missed the flu by getting the flu shot that made me and my family believers in the flu shot.  I have heard nearly every excuse in the book about why folks don’t want to get it.  But hear me out.  Senior citizens have reduced immune systems so they can’t mess around.  Actually, we have already had our flu shot clinic in our community.  The reason being is TIP NUMBER ONE:

  1. According to the CDC getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

The BEST way people!  So all those skeptics need to realize that the flu shot is your best defense.

The CDC goes on to say that flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from the flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.

Another important thing to keep in mind during flu season is if you are sick, please avoid visiting assisted living communities.  Sure we want visitors…but sickness that can be passed on is never a welcome guest.  Please come back when you are well!  We would love to see you then.  Honestly, the flu can be life threatening to seniors.  Sure, it’s no picnic for anyone.  But for seniors, it can be quite serious!  So remember TIP NUMBER TWO:

  1. If you have any flu-like symptoms, please take care of your health and come back to visit senior communities when you are well.   

senior-wash-hands

Also, it is extremely important in the infection control process to WASH YOUR HANDS!  Listen Mama was right when she told you to keep your hands clean and keep them to yourself!  During flu season I have even observed folks at church exchange a friendly hello instead of a handshake.  Poor manners…NO!  Good hygiene. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that between 50 and 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations every year are attributed to seniors and the over-65 demographic accounts for 90 percent of flu-related deaths annually.  So it is extremely important to do your part in the infection control process.  So follow TIP NUMBER THREE:

  1. Keep hands clean, avoid touching your face and mouth and also cover that cough with a tissue.

senior-sneeze

The CDC gives these infection control suggestions.  “Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.  Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.”  Following these tips will help better protect you and your loved ones during this flu season.  When it comes to the flu, this is definitely not an area where we want to go viral.

For more information, visit http://www.flu.gov