Surviving flu season

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a timely message for seniors: The use of flu antiviral medications cuts the length of hospital stays for those who are hospitalized with the flu, and reduces the risk of needing care after discharge.

That’s important information. The last thing we seniors need this winter is to come down with the flu. It hits us harder than nearly any other age group, with 80 percent to 90 percent of flu-related deaths being in people age 65 and older.

The study cited by the CDC says that the earlier the antiviral medications are started, the better they work. The key is seeing your doctor right away if you think you have the flu, because the medications are by prescription only — not something you can get over the counter. Antiviral drugs can be taken as liquid, pills, an inhaled powder or intravenously.

Seeing a doctor within two days of getting sick and starting the medication within four days substantially reduced the length of illness or hospital stay, the study indicated. Even those who started the medication more than two days later saw some benefit, although not as much. Those who were hospitalized and released were 25 percent to 60 percent less likely to need extended care.

The CDC says even with antiviral medications, it’s still important to get our annual flu shots. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. And stay away from those who are sick.

More tips: Carry a packet of sanitizer wipes and use them everywhere — grocery cart handles, library book covers, door handles, etc. Eat healthy food, drink plenty of water and get enough sleep.

(c) 2015 King Features Synd., Inc.