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swine flu in the elderly
By
Ms. Lakshmi Dayal

 

Swine flu is a strain of Influenza Virus that is caused by Pigs. It can affect senior citizens with underlying health conditions quickly, which is why it is important to be aware of the swine flu symptoms, treatment, and so on.

 

Over the years, a lot of new strains of viruses have been found around the world. Of these, an Influenza Virus which has become quite common nowadays is the Swine Flu. Also known as the H1N1 virus, it is a strain of influenza virus that has symptoms which are similar to that of the regular flu.

 

The flu was discovered in pigs initially. However, it primarily spreads from person to person in various ways. The swine flu outbreak in 2009 led to the confirmation that it can be transmitted from human to human, leading to a pandemic. In August 2010, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the H1N1 pandemic was over and since then, the swine flu virus is referred to as a regular human flu virus.

 

The number of swine flu cases sees a rise during the flu season and like any other strain of flu, it is highly contagious. The virus has the potential to spread thousands of germs through the air from a simple sneeze. In addition to this, it can also stay on the table or other surfaces like doorknobs and handles, lift buttons, and so on. Though the Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) develops the flu shot every year for vaccination against the H1N1 type virus; prevention of swine flu is extremely important. This especially holds true for Elders and senior citizens; they should be given proper care to ensure that the virus does not affect them. Maintaining a distance from those who are infected and sanitizing hands and surfaces regularly, are some of the most common ways of preventing swine flu transmission.

 

How do You Catch the Flu?

One of the misconceptions around the virus is that it is caused due to eating foods that are made out of pork or its product. However, that is not the case. Catching the swine flu is similar to how one catches the seasonal flu. When the infected person coughs or sneezes, the tiny droplets of the virus mix with the air which spreads it further.

 

Hence, if you come into contact with these droplets or touch surfaces like doorknobs and other fixtures that may be infected with the virus, there are high chances that you might get infected by it as well. That is why it is necessary to sanitise your hands and use disinfectant wipes and sprays for the surfaces so that the risk of contracting the virus minimized. People who are infected with the swine flu start seeing symptoms after 7 days of contracting the virus.

 

Who is Prone to Catching the Virus?

The virus, when first discovered, was most commonly found to affect children and young adults. However, senior citizens, especially those who have underlying health conditions are also quite prone to catching the virus. It is mandatory that you carry a mask or a handkerchief, sanitiser and disinfectant wipes if you are going to crowded places as safety precautions. Some people who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus are: -

  • Adults over the age of 65 years
  • Senior citizens with underlying health conditions like Diabetes mellitus, Asthma, Heart problems, Neuromuscular disease etc.
  • Those with compromised immune systems

 

Swine Flu Causes: What You Need to Know!

Unlike other strains of influenza viruses that can transmit from lice, ticks, mosquitoes, etc, swine flu is transmitted via human to human contact. Some of the most common causes of swine flu include: -

  • Spread through saliva
  • Transmission through mucus particles
  • Direct contact with an infected person
  • Sneezing and coughing without covering the face or mouth
  • Touching eyes or nose after touching a contaminated surface

 

Swine Flu Symptoms and Keeping them in Check

Those affected with the swine flu virus will have symptoms that are similar to those of regular influenza. Some of the symptoms of swine flu in the elderly include: -

  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Chills and fever
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea and vomiting

 

In some elderly people, symptoms like respiratory issues (shortness of breath), lung infection, pain in the belly or sides and so on, can also be witnessed.

 

Today, there are a lot of organisations that offer healthcare services at home for elderly and senior citizens that help them lead a stress-free lifestyle. Senior citizens can contact the organisations in case of any assistance required.

 

Swine Flu: How to Diagnose

Diagnosis of the flu is not a complicated process. All you need to do is visit the doctor as soon as you see the first signs or symptoms of the swine flu virus. The doctor or the nurse will swab your throat or nose to take a sample. This swab will then be analysed in the laboratory to identify if you have contracted the swine flu virus or if it is a normal influenza virus.

 

Swine Flu Treatment Explained

There is no particular medicine for swine flu as most of the infected people recover without any major medical treatment. However, there is a vaccine available for the same but whether to take the shot or not depends on your doctor. In addition to this, in some cases, the doctor may prescribe antiviral medications for the treatment of swine flu but then again, it depends on the severity of the flu. In elderly people who have underlying conditions or show severe symptoms like respiratory or heart issues, doctors may recommend them to get admitted in a hospital for observation, so that in case of any health deterioration, they get immediate treatment.

 

Managing Swine Flu Symptoms

At the first signs or mild symptoms of the swine flu virus, do the following to get relief from them: -

  • Keep Yourself Hydrated: Drink plenty of water and other liquids like fruits and vegetable juices that help in preventing dehydration in your body. Having soups that are high on nutrients and proteins are also a great way to replenish your body.
  • Rest as much as you can: Another thing that will help you get relief from swine flu is getting plenty of rest. It will help your immune system to focus on fighting the infection and gaining back the lost strength. The objective behind getting rest is that your body has time to rejuvenate.

 

In addition to this, you can take doctor prescribed medicines for swine flu to get relief from symptoms, like headache or sore throat. You can also drink plenty of warm water or gargle, to relieve the symptoms naturally.

 

Swine Flu Precautions and Preventions

Getting a yearly vaccination for swine flu is one of the most effective ways to prevent the infection. However, the challenge with elderly people is that they might have underlying health conditions that may or may not be compatible with the vaccine. In such cases, follow these swine flu precautions: -

  • Avoid going out if you don’t feel well.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently.
  • Keep a hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes or spray handy.
  • Avoid touching your nose, eyes, or mouth immediately after touching surfaces like door handles, tabletops, and so on. Sanitize first!
  • Elderly people should strictly avoid going out to crowded places or large gatherings during the flu season.
  • Follow the protocols that are advised by health institutions like WHO, CDC, or other national and government institutes.

 

Food that You Can Eat in Swine Flu

Swine flu can make the immune system of your body weak, leading to tiredness, fatigue, and so on. Hence, eating foods that are rich in protein and other essential nutrients is very important. It will help your immune system gain back the strength and fight the infection better. Some of the most commonly recommended food to eat in swine flu include: -

  • Leafy Greens: Leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and so on, are some of the best natural immune boosters. These leafy greens are packed with nutrients like Vitamins and minerals that help in enhancing the immunity of the body. They can be eaten raw, boiled, cooked, or in soup and juice forms as well.
  • Broth and Soups: One of the best things to eat when you have the swine flu is a bowl of broth. It can be a chicken broth or a vegetable broth, depending on your preference. Broth helps in keeping the body hydrated, soothes the sore throat and also helps in relieving congestion. Along with this, you can also opt for a bowl of soup with pieces of boneless chicken or vegetables that strengthen your body with the required iron, protein, and other nutrients. In that sense, a soup combines the benefits of a broth with additional ingredients.
  • Fruits with Vitamin C: An important nutrient that helps in boosting your immune system is Vitamin C. There are supplements for Vitamin C as well. However, if you want to opt for natural remedies, have fruits that are high in Vitamin C like oranges, Sweet Lime, strawberries, and other citrus fruits.

 

In addition to all this, you can also have vegetables like broccoli, garlic as well as herbal tea that helps in replenishing your body. However, it is always advisable to consult your doctor regarding the food items that you can eat.

 

While the swine flu cases in the country are comparatively lower than in the years gone by, it is necessary to stay updated and aware of the symptoms, causes, and treatment for this infection. For elderly people or senior citizens, it is important to take the necessary swine flu precautions during the flu season to avoid contracting the virus and lead a healthy life.

 

At Emoha, we offer the best elder care service at home that helps elders and senior citizens lead a hassle-free life. Right from offering emergency support to regular health monitoring and much more, at Emoha, it is always #EldersFirst.

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