You know the signs – fever, cough, chills, achy body, and runny nose. These symptoms typically mean you are coming down with the flu (common term for influenza), especially at this time of year in Minnesota.

Protecting yourself from the flu is serious business, even more so if you are a caregiver or a senior over the age of 65 years. The body’s immune system weakens with age making it more challenging to fend off illness like influenza. In fact, those over the age of 65 are more likely to be hospitalized or possibly even die from the flu. A caregiver’s risk for getting the flu is also high, and if not vaccinated the flu can easily spread like wildfire to those you are caring for as well as others. At HealthStar Home Health, we encourage our employees, especially our caregivers, to get the flu vaccine annually to help decrease the spread of influenza.

So, what exactly is the flu? Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by various flu viruses that is contagious and can spread easily from person to person. There are three main types of flu viruses: A, B, and C. Influenza type A and B are the more common types and what can make up to 20% of the population feel achy, have runny noses, fever and cough. Type C influenza also causes some of the same symptoms, but much less severe.

The type A flu virus is constantly changing and typically is the main source of the wide spread flu epidemics. As WebMD.com explains, different strains of the flu virus mutate over time and replace the older strains, which is why it is so important to get a flu shot annually to ensure your body develops immunity to the most current strains of the virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the influenza virus can begin spreading starting one day before symptoms present themselves. Vaccinations for caregivers is critical in the effort to keep themselves healthy, but also to keep those they care for healthy. It is good practice to get a seasonal flu vaccine each year. Also, regardless of your age or who are in contact with, it is always good habit to cover your cough, wash your hands often and try not to be in contact with those who are ill. These are everyday precautions we all should follow, and HealthStar Home Health encourages our caregivers to routinely practice these precautions. If you begin to feel any of the tell-tale influenza symptoms, contact your doctor – there may be medications to help.

Overall, living a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically, will help you get through the upcoming Minnesota winter season. Daily exercise, good sleep, plenty of fluids and healthy eating habits will keep your body and mind sharp and feeling your best. When a person’s body is overworked and not replenished with proper nutrition and sleep, it will begin to break down. Physical injuries can occur to our body as well as a weakening of the immune system. When a person’s immune system is compromised, the possibility of virus increases.

So what next? Find a free flu clinic near you! Beat the bug – get vaccinated for you, your loved ones and those you care for.

At HealthStar Home Health, we help make strong communities and families by enabling individuals of all ages to live more independent and fulfilling lives. With services such as life and health management, mental health, home health and home help, HealthStar Home Health and our caregivers encourage good health habits in the communities we serve, which in turn reduces hospitalizations. Call us today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation.

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