It is hoped that all seniors have had their annual flu shots with the recommended extra-strength vaccine for seniors. During flu season, it can be safely assumed that the viruses that cause both the common cold and the flu are in the air and perhaps on everything you touch.

The flu can be deadly and should not be taken lightly!

Cold and flu can be spread in two ways – through the air and by direct contact. The viruses transmit through droplets, and they can spread up to 6 feet through the air when someone sneezes or coughs without covering their nose or mouth, or through direct contact with the germs.

For example, handling an object that someone has coughed on; touching someone’s skin who has been sneezing; or if a person with the virus wipes their nose and then opens a door, the next person to touch the door knob is at risk for picking up the germ.

The following precautions will help prevent the spread of the germs:

  • Cover both mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. Use a tissue to completely cover mouth and nose. Tissues should be used just one time and then discarded. Make sure tissues and wastebaskets are conveniently located.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Soap your hands, between your fingers and wrists, rubbing briskly and scraping your fingertips against your palms to eliminate the germs under your nails.

This should be done for a prolonged time. Most caregivers are taught to silently sing “Happy Birthday” or “Yankee Doodle” three times before rinsing and completing drying the hands.

  • Get the person who is sick to wash his hands frequently as well. Hand sanitizers do NOT eliminate the need to thoroughly wash one’s hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. These are the easiest places for germs to enter your body. Refrain from kissing the person who is sick.
  • Clean surfaces that are frequently touched. Use bleach wipes or other disinfectants to wipe surfaces such as door knobs, toilet handles, faucets, light switches, keyboards, remote controls, grocery cart handles, tabletops or car door handles. Studies have shown that flu viruses can survive up to eight hours on surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick. Don’t expose others to your germs. If you still work, take a sick day or two to prevent the spread of the virus. Your manager will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

It’s especially important for professional caregivers to take a sick day after notifying your employer in advance. Please don’t expose weaker or immune-compromised seniors to your germs. By your negligence, you are endangering them.

May your holidays be happy and healthy!

Rachel Carson is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care, serving The Lowcountry since 1997.