How Dangerous Is Cold Weather For The Elderly?

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With the cold weather fast approaching, it becomes even more important to ensure that elderly individuals are safe and healthy. Did you know:
• There were approximately 21,700 deaths in individuals aged 65 or over lasts winter
• Far fewer elderly individuals die in countries with lower temperatures because they take the right precautions
• Hypothermia and Pneumonia are the biggest risk factors to an individual’s health for the elderly in colder months
This article looks at how at the affects of cold weather has on elderly individuals, the illnesses and conditions associated with cold weather and the elderly, and the help that Home Care can give…Read On.

Is The Flu Affecting More Elderly Individuals?

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With the colder weather fast approaching, the likelihood of contracting the flu virus increases. The flu virus can simply be a minor inconvenience for most individuals, that may cause them to feel ill and run down, whereas in the cases of vulnerable groups of people (e.g. the young, the elderly, those with underlying health conditions such as Asthma, and pregnant women) the flu virus can cause a number of complications to an individual’s health and it may even have potentially dangerous consequences.

Symptoms Of Flu

There are a number of symptoms that could indicate that an individual has the flu, and these include: headache, loss of appetite, nausea, coughing, exhaustion, general aches and pains, tiredness, and a sore throat. Although there are a number of symptoms that are similar to the common cold, the flu it is a much more severe virus, and the symptoms can last much longer.

The Elderly And The Flu Virus

There is currently an ageing population in the UK, and this means that there are more elderly individuals living in the general population than ever before. However although the elderly are one of the largest groups of individuals within the general population, they are the most vulnerable, and the most susceptible to contracting viruses such as the flu.

In older individuals the flu virus is much more likely to cause complications that could have a significant impact on the individual’s overall health and well-being, which could potentially cause long-term health problems. The main health complications that could occur in the elderly are: Pneumonia and Dehydration, and it could also worsen pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, and heart disease.

The main reason that elderly individuals are more vulnerable to complications associated with the flu virus is, they have reduced cough and gag reflexes. This is in turn increases the likelihood of an elderly individual having respiratory conditions. Older individuals are also more likely to have a weakened immune system, and this makes them more susceptible to contracting viruses, and other illnesses. This means that it is much harder for older individuals to fight off illnesses and infections.

Treatment Of Flu

The treatment of Flu draws parallels with the treatment of the common cold. In most cases Flu can be treated within an individual’s home through: resting, keeping warm, and drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. In some cases Antibiotics may be prescribed, however these would only be prescribed in cases where the individual has developed complications, and this is because Antibiotics have no impact on Flu as it is a virus. Antiviral medications may also be prescribed as these help to prevent the virus from multiplying within the body. Antiviral medications used to treat the Flu include: Tamiflu and Relenza. Tamiflu is taken orally within 48 hours of getting the first Flu symptoms, and it can only be taken for a period of 5 days. Although this can reduce the symptoms of Flu, Tamiflu can have some unpleasant side effects including: nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. Relenza is a powder that is taken through the use of an inhaler, and could potentially be a safer antiviral medication to take amongst vulnerable individuals as it is less likely to have any side-effects.

Flu Prevention

The most effective way of treating Flu is by preventing it. This can be done in two main ways and these include: maintaining good hygiene, and the Flu vaccination. The Flu vaccination can be extremely effective in preventing Flu cases, particularly within the elderly population. Currently in the UK it is recommended that all individuals that are in one of the vulnerable groups (elderly, children, pregnant women, and those this pre-existing conditions) and those who care for them (e.g. medical professionals, and carers) receive a Flu vaccination. In the UK the Flu vaccination is available from October, and individuals can talk to their Doctor or nurse if they feel that they need to be vaccinated.

After Flu

As there is a higher risk of elderly individuals developing complications after contracting the Flu virus there is an increased chance of an individual needing some additional help and support. If an individual has developed complications (e.g. Pneumonia) it may leave them feeling weaker and less able to do some tasks that they were previously able to do with ease.

In these cases an individual may benefit from the implementation of a Home Care package, so that they can receive the help and support that they need. This is because a care worker would be able support an individual with all areas of daily living including: personal care, meal preparation, medication management, and domestic duties. This in turn would reduce the strain on an individual whilst they are recovering from the Flu.