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Tuesday, 20 November 2018 10:00

How to prevent and treat infections in the elderly 

According to statistics, over a third of people above the age of 65 die because of an infectious disease that was not caught in time. Now, this may sound macabre, but the reality is that as we age our bodies are no longer able to protect themselves as they used to, no matter how healthy you are.
Infection in the elderly is commonplace because of various reasons, but one of the most common tends to be a suppressed immune system which leaves them vulnerable to any nasties floating about.
So when does infection occur? An infectious disease is caused by microbes in the form of bacteria, fungi, parasites or viruses that invade the body and attack the immune system. This can lead to life-threatening diseases, chronic illness and organ damage.
These microscopic particles can be found in the air we breathe, the food we eat and the soil in which it’s grown, as well as the water we drink. Skin infections in the elderly are also prevalent as the skin begins to thin and wear down as you age. Broken skin sores which are not properly treated are a hot spot for bacterial infection which can spread throughout the rest of the body.

Common symptoms of infection in the elderly

The symptoms of infection will vary depending on the type of infection that has invaded the body, but the most common include:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Constant fatigue
  • High fever
  • Muscle aches and body sensitivity

How to prevent infections in the elderly

To keep infection at bay, it’s important that seniors and caregivers keep their health in-check at all times. Some simple ways to prevent the spread of infection include:

  • Always cover a cough to avoid the spread of germs
  • Avoid sharing personal items between seniors, i.e. soaps, washcloths, razors etc.
  • Ensure a senior is properly vaccinated
  • Prepare food in a clean, safe environment
  • Always wash hands before meals and after the use of the toilet
  • Practice safe sex
  • Nourish the body with healthy foods, i.e. plenty of greens, berries, protein, healthy fats and probiotics
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake
  • Avoid excessive sugar intake
  • Stay active with regular exercise, i.e. walks, yoga, Pilates, swimming, golf, cycling

If your loved one has been struggling with a persistent cough for longer than a week, had a fever for over 48 hours, has a severe headache, trouble breathing, an unusual rash or swelling or vision impairment it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible!

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