Managing Flu Season: Danger Signs & Recovery Tips

by Dianna Malkowski, Physician Assistant & Nutritionist

While many people recover from seasonal influenza on their own, seniors are at high risk for becoming severely ill and must be carefully monitored. The flu can develop into something more dangerous, such as pneumonia or other complications. If in doubt as to whether you or a loved one needs medical care, call your doctor’s office to discuss with a nurse.
10 signs to see a doctor

If you or a senior you care for develops any of the following signs, do not wait to call a doctor. Once pneumonia or other serious infection sets in, it can progress quickly.
  1. Fever higher than 101 degrees and lasting longer than one day.
  2. Irregular breathing, such as fast and shallow or a rapid pulse.
  3. Difficulty breathing, such as a feeling of not getting enough air or problems drawing in a breath.
  4. Chest pain, such as sharp pains or aches when breathing in that may get worse with coughing.
  5. Vomiting and diarrhea, which, if repeated, can cause dehydration.
  6. Decreased urination, which is a sign of dehydration; infants may experience decreased tears.
  7. Dizziness, such as while standing, is a sign of dehydration.
  8. Discoloration around the mouth, often blue or purple.
  9. Confusion/disorientation that wasn’t present before illness.
  10. Convulsions or seizures.

Tips to help manage the flu

With the right tools and a few precautions, an individual suffering from the flu can increase his chances of recovering without spreading the illness to others.
  • Place boxes of facial tissues throughout the house to cover mouths and noses during sneezes and coughs.
  • Avoid touching your face. Touching eyes, noses and mouths is how germs get into the body, and often is how illnesses such as the flu are spread.
  • Wash hands with soap and water several times a day. For cleaning when soap and water are not nearby, keep premoistened antimicrobial hand wipes and hand sanitizer on hand.

Use hand sanitizer to help stop the spread of germs.
  • Keep a reliable, mercury-free thermometer on hand for monitoring the severity of the flu. Look for an environmentally safe thermometer that can be washed in soapy water. For senior use, consider models with magnified cases for easier reading.
  • A moist heat pack can help relieve the aches and pains that accompany the flu. Look for one that offers short treatments at high temperatures alternating with cooling periods. Some include safety features, such as automatic cool-down if the user falls asleep.

Heat packs that pull moisture from the air can help with flu aches.
  • Keep surfaces in the home clean with products specially made to stop the spread of illness, such as germicidal disposable cloths.

Dianna Malkowski is a Board Certified Physician Assistant and Mayo Clinic trained nutritionist specializing in diabetes, cancer, wound healing, therapeutic diets and nutrition support. She serves on the board of professional advisors for The CareGiver Partnership and enjoys working with patients and caregivers alike. Ask Dianna a question, or for one-on-one help with products, call 1-800-985-1353 M-F 9-4 CST.

Sources: AOL Health,, WebMD


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