ill Senior woman with caring daughter

It can be easy to forget about germs. After all, we cannot see them spreading across our hands, meals and surfaces. But these tiny organisms are one of the most dangerous threats to a senior’s health. People over the age of 65 are especially likely to develop complications as a result of the flu. In fact, seniors account for approximately 71 to 85 percent of flu-related deaths in recent years. If a senior already suffers from a chronic condition such as asthma, a seasonal illness can significantly exasperate the symptoms. Common illnesses may seem trivial compared to more severe diseases, but they should not be taken lightly.

How do germs spread?

Germs are typically spread through hand-to-hand contact, especially if an infected individual touches their eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are also spread through foods, objects and surfaces. Bacteria can live on a dry surface, such as a table, for several hours and a moist surface, such as a kitchen sink, for several days. It can be overwhelming to think that everything and everyone around us may contain germs. However, there are a number of simple, effective ways to avoid the spread of germs.

How can seniors protect themselves from germs?

Germs need a passageway into the body, such as the eyes, nose, mouth or a skin lesion. Seniors should avoid touching their face whenever possible to reduce the chance of infection. Washing your hands frequently, especially after interacting with a person or animal, is one of the most successful ways to stop the spread of germs. Hand washing is also important before preparing a meal. Do not handle raw or uncooked meat and then touch other foods or cutlery. When washing your hands, be sure to use plenty of soap and do not skip easy-to-miss spots, such as between your fingers. Hand sanitizer is an effective way to kill any remaining bacteria that may have been missed. Seniors should consider carrying a small hand sanitizer with them, especially when visiting somewhere full of germs, such as a public place or doctor’s office.

What can caregivers and loved ones do?

Caregivers and loved ones can help protect seniors from germs. If you will be interacting with a senior or entering their home, be diligent about washing and sanitizing your hands. Do not make contact with a senior if you are sick; even if you wash your hands, you can still put them at risk. Additionally, caregivers can help seniors maintain a clean home. Sanitizing surfaces, removing expired food, and cleaning towels and bedding are effective ways to kill germs within the home. If germs do enter the body, a healthy immune system is one of the best ways to combat illness. Encourage seniors to eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and maintain an active lifestyle.

Germs can be invisible but dangerous, especially with cold weather on the horizon. Being diligent about avoiding the spread of germs can keep seniors safe and healthy – so don’t skip washing your hands! If you have any further questions about germs, please ask us in the comments.

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