Flu is a serious illness for older adults. In fact, between 71 and 85 percent of flu-related deaths occur in seniors aged 65 and older. Although there is a test for diagnosing the flu, doctors often don’t use it because they can diagnose based on the symptoms. However, a new study indicates that the flu test might be necessary in diagnosing older adults.
Flu and the Elderly.
The study, published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, involved researchers looking at the records of over 1,400 people aged 18 and older who had respiratory illnesses. The records were from four different hospitals. The researchers performed a flu test on the patients that detects the genetic material of the flu virus and is more accurate than the rapid flu test. The test confirmed that 136 of the patients had the flu, yet only around 43 percent of them had been tested for the flu by doctors.
One of the reasons that doctors may not be catching the flu in older adults is that their symptoms can be different from those of younger people. Some of the other findings of the research seem to confirm that idea. Other findings of the study include:
- Less than half of older adults said they had a sore throat, cough, or fever. These are symptoms that typically cause a doctor to perform the flu test.
- Patients who had a fever were more likely to be tested by doctors.
- Young patients were tested more often than older patients.
- Only about 3 percent of older adults were given antiviral drugs, and only 11 percent who had a positive flu test.
Flu Symptoms in the Elderly.
How can you tell when your parent has the flu? Well, for one thing, the flu often comes on rapidly, whereas a cold or other type of illness may develop slowly. So, if your parent suddenly complains that they feel terrible, they may have the flu. You should also look for the typical symptoms of flu, which include:
- Sore throat.
- Stuffy or runny nose.
However, experts say that the symptoms older adults most often have are fatigue and lack of appetite. They might also have:
- Shortness of breath.
- Low fever.
If your parent gets the flu, a senior care provider can help them to recover at home. A senior care provider can bring them plenty of liquids, like warm broth or tea. They can also prepare food for your parent when they feel like eating. A senior care provider can make soft foods that will be easier to swallow with a sore throat. Senior care providers can also remind your parent to take medications prescribed or suggested by their doctor.
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