winter illness to look for

5 Infections to Watch for this Winter

As we age, our immune system weakens and it becomes harder to fight off infections. Coupled with any underlying medical conditions, it becomes even more of a challenge. That is why it is so important to stay healthy, eat right and visit your doctor regularly. Early detection of infection reduces the risk of severe infection and prolonged illnesses. The healthier we are, the happier we are. These are some infections to be aware of and commonly affect seniors:

  1. Bacterial Pneumonia
    Pneumonia is usually caused by either bacteria or a virus. When bacteria enter the lungs, they can cause air sacs to become inflamed or fill with fluid making it difficult to breathe. The body is not receiving enough oxygen. Bacterial pneumonia is a leading cause of hospitalization in seniors and can be difficult to identify until it becomes severe. Seniors do not always have typical symptoms such as fever or cough. Instead, they can experience confusion, dizziness, loss of appetite, and weakness. There is a pneumonia vaccine that can help prevent pneumococcal disease. See our blog about the pneumococcal vaccine here.
  2. Influenza
    Influenza, more commonly known as the flu is another common respiratory infection that spreads quickly when coughing or sneezing. This happens in community settings such as hospitals and senior living facilities. Seniors can benefit from an influenza vaccine to minimize risk and reduce the severity of symptoms. Similar to pneumonia, older adults may not have common symptoms such as fever or cough. Pay attention to changes in behavior, lethargy or weakness, and confusion. For more information about the flu vaccine, click here.
  3. Skin Infections
    The smallest cut, scrape, or ulcer can create easy access for bacteria and germs causing an infection. Moisture and contact can also breed infection. Omnibus Home Health Care suggests regularly inspecting your skin for rashes, unusual marks, or ulcers, and being mindful of itching, redness, or pain. MRSA, shingles, and foot infections are some of the most common infections. Protect and clean your skin to ward off infections. Always remember to clean and bandage cuts or scrapes, no matter how small.
  4. Urinary Tract Infections
    While younger adults often notice pain or burning when urinating as symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), for seniors, symptoms of sudden incontinence, confusion, weight loss, or loss of appetite may occur. Untreated UTIs can become serious and lead to hospitalization. If caught early, they can be cleared up with antibiotics. To reduce your risk of a UTI, stay hydrated and maintain proper personal hygiene.
  5. Gastrointestinal Infections
    A lot of healthy bacteria live in the gut, but sometimes unhealthy bacteria can inhabit the gut too. This can come from contaminated water or undercooked food. These unhealthy bacteria can cause diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and fever. However, some antibiotics can destroy healthy and necessary bacteria. It is very important to stay hydrated to support recovery and minimize complications. Washing hands before eating and after using the restroom, and ensuring that food is thoroughly cooked can help prevent infection.

In-home care can help reduce the risk of common infections by helping seniors maintain a cleaner environment, and practice good hygiene. To learn more about how in-home care can support your loved one call Omnibus Home Healthcare 409.724.7000 and visit our Facebook page for the latest information from our staff.