Flu and Pneumonia Hazards for the Elderly

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a virus that causes a contagious respiratory illness which attacks the upper and lower respiratory tract.

Flu season is typically from November to March and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and pains
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose

The 2017-2018 flu season has been one of the worst in history with record numbers of flu cases nationwide. In New Mexico,a reported 96 people have died as a result of the flu: 24 from the flu and 72 from pneumonia that developed as a result of the flu.

While the flu is dangerous for everyone, children and elderly people are at the highest risk.90% of flu-related deaths, occur in the age group of 65 and over and more than half of the people who are hospitalized because of the flu also fall into this age group.

Those who are battling the flu can easily develop pneumonia if they are not careful. It is recommended that those with the flu get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, avoid alcohol and cigarettes, and consider having the Pneumonia vaccine.

Symptoms of viral pneumonia include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • A dry cough that produces no phlegm or a cough that produces small amounts of white or clear phlegm
  • Muscle pain
  • Exhaustion

With such high risk, here are suggestions from health care professionals on how to avoid the flu:

  • Stay away from sick people, especially in enclosed small spaces, such as cars or elevators.
  • Wash your often.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, which will help prevent any germs that may have been picked up through touch from entering the body in those locations.
  • Build up your immune system by getting lots of sleep, eating well (which means lots of fruits and vegetables, in addition to protein), managing stress levels and consuming enough fluids.

Luckily, according to the NM Department of Health, the New Mexico flu season has peaked and will likely begin to decrease for the remainder of the season. With some simple precautions, you can help your loved ones (especially those 65 and older) make it through flu season healthy and happy!


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