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Seniors: How to Protect Yourself from the Flu and Coronavirus

Sandy Rosenholz, Senior Resources, Inc.

It’s been said that as we grow older, time appears to speed up. This statement has never been more true than in 2020 with the outbreak of COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2. The virus and the lockdowns that have resulted from it have put an end to many activities, especially for seniors who can no longer be as active as they once were. One day seems to meld into another.

With the onset of the flu season, it is imperative that everyone, especially those with underlying health conditions and seniors, gets their annual flu shot this year. Healthcare professionals note that exposing yourself to both the flu and COVID can be dangerous. Flu vaccines prevent illnesses and flu-related doctor visits, and cut down on the number of hospital visits. Ask your doctor which vaccine will work best for you. And if you are 65 or over, it is advised to also get the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination.

Doctors suggest individuals get the influenza shot before the end of October. Vaccines are available at many doctor’s offices or pharmacies. If you are unsure where to get your shot, call your doctor or visit https://vaccinefinder.org.

The Flu vs. COVID-19

Tens of thousands of Americans die annually from various influenza strains, with seniors representing a large segment of the reported deaths. That’s a lot of people, but nothing compared to the more than 211,000 Americans who have so far died due to COVID-19.

What’s the difference between the two? COVID and the flu have similar symptoms, but when they appear, how virulent they are, and their incubation periods vary widely. And, while the flu attacks the upper respiratory system (nose, sinuses, throat), the Coronavirus can also attack the windpipe, lungs and other body areas.


If you have the flu, you are typically contagious a day before your symptoms appear and five to seven days afterward.

Flu symptoms often include fever, headache, muscle pain, runny nose, sore throat, extreme tiredness and cough. In many cases the cough appears first, followed by fever and other symptoms. Those who contract the flu have been successfully treated with antiviral drugs when given within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Most importantly, the flu can be prevented to a large degree by an annual flu shot.


COVID is the new kid on the block. The contagious period (from being exposed to showing any symptoms) is typically five to seven days but can be up to 14 days. Symptoms may include fever/chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

How to Avoid the Flu or COVID-19

Every year, you see and hear information about protecting yourself and your family members from the flu. This year paying attention to these suggestions is even more critical. Although the two viruses have some significant differences in how they affect your body, many of the suggested precautions can be used to prevent the contracting either of them.

To avoid the flu this year:

To avoid the coronavirus:

When to Get Immediate Medical Attention for the Flu and COVID-19

If you have any of the following symptoms of the flu or COVID, contact 9-1-1 or call ahead to your emergency medical center and then go there.

Severe symptoms of the flu may include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse, seizures, not urinating, severe muscle pain, extreme weakness or instability, a fever or cough that improves but then returns or worsens, and worsening of chronic medical conditions.

Severe symptoms of COVID-19 may include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, and bluish lips or face.

Even if you think you may have something that is not life-threatening, get it checked out. It’s always safer to err on the side of caution, especially in seniors and those with underlying health conditions. Stay safe and be well.

Senior Resource, Inc. helps seniors throughout the greater Los Angeles area determine which living options best fit their lifestyle. Senior Resources, Inc., together with www.Suddenly65.com, an online tool for seniors, has been donating masks to charities during COVID-19.

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