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Although viral infections can be unpleasant for anyone, they’re especially concerning for the elderly population. When compared to younger individuals, seniors who contract a viral infection have a higher risk of developing serious complications that could lead to hospitalization or even death. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 70% and 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths in recent years have occurred in people aged 65 and older.

While you’re probably concerned about your elderly loved one’s condition, you can rest easy knowing that you can turn to DispatchHealth for in-home treatment. Rather than having your loved one travel to a clinic, where he or she would likely be exposed to a number of other illnesses, we bring treatment straight to his or her home. We treat almost everything that an emergency room can but for a much more affordable price—our services cost about the same as a visit to an urgent care clinic, and just a fraction of what it costs to visit the ER. Plus, we accept Medicare, Medicaid, and most major insurance plans, and even offer a reasonable flat rate for patients without insurance.

Viral infection symptoms & when to seek treatment

Symptoms will vary from one type of viral infection to another. With regard to the flu, some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Sort throat

It’s important to note, however, that your elderly loved one may have the flu but not experience any of these symptoms. Many “typical” flu symptoms don’t occur as frequently among elderly individuals as they do in the younger population. Instead, seniors with the flu may experience:

  • Confusion
  • Impaired mental function
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • An overall feeling of discomfort

With regard to bronchitis, some common symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Production of clear, white, yellow, green, or gray mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

Because seniors have such a high risk of developing complications from a viral infection, and because antiviral medications tend to be most effective if administered within 48 hours, it’s always a good idea to reach out to a medical professional if you think your elderly loved one may be infected. With that being said, you should contact a doctor immediately if your loved one is vomiting, experiencing dizziness or chest pain, having difficulty breathing, or exhibiting signs of confusion.

What causes viral infections in seniors?

True to their name, viral infections are caused by viruses (as opposed to bacterial infections like strep throat and whooping cough, which are caused by bacteria). Viral infections can be spread through person-to-person contact (even if the individuals are several feet apart from each other) or by touching a surface that has the virus on it. Because viral infections aren’t caused by bacteria, they won’t respond to antibiotics.

How to prevent & manage viral infections in seniors

Getting a flu shot is one of the best steps that anyone—including seniors—can take to avoid contracting influenza. Elderly individuals should also take the following measures to avoid the flu and other viral infections:

  • Wash their hands
  • Use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching their face, especially their nose and mouth
  • Keep their home clean and disinfected
  • Eat a nutritious diet
  • Exercise
  • Minimize contact with sick people
  • Avoid large crowds
  • Wear a face mask in public settings

If left untreated

As noted above, seniors are at a particularly high risk of developing serious complications from viral infections. Untreated influenza and bronchitis infections, for instance, can result in the development of pneumonia, which can in turn lead to fluid buildup within the lungs, lung abscesses, and organ failure. Other flu-related complications include dehydration, ear and sinus infections, multi-organ failure, and inflammation of the brain, heart, and muscles.

If you’d like to arrange an in-home visit for your elderly loved one, contact DispatchHealth today. You can request care over the phone, on our app, or through our website.