Knowing whether you or an aging loved one is coming down with influenza or COVID-19 can be tricky since symptoms are similar. But, there are key differences amongst the symptoms and their onset. With either illness, older adults aged 65 and over and individuals with underlying health and/or chronic conditions, are at a higher risk of becoming sick.
While many of these symptoms are similar to those of influenza, the primary difference to note is the loss of taste and/or smell. As individuals age,
sensory loss is common; therefore, aging adults experiencing any of the following symptoms or any abnormalities noticed, should contact a primary physician and consider being tested for COVID-19.
Symptoms may be noticed 2-14 days after exposure and can range from mild to severe.According to the Public Health Agency of Canada and the
World Health Organization (WHO), people with the symptoms below may have COVID-19.
Most of the time seasonal influenza, an acute respiratory infection, is a sudden onset of not feeling well (malaise), fever, headache and dry cough. Most people recover within a week without complications; however, older adults are at higher risk. According to
WHO symptoms can range from mild to severe.
What has healthcare providers and
family caregivers concerned for this flu season, is that there is no evidence an individual cannot become infected with both viruses at the same time. Since both can be deadly for seniors and those with underlying health conditions, the need to diligently practice proper handwashing techniques and decrease any unnecessary exposure is paramount.
The risk increases for
older adults with chronic conditions such as, diabetes, asthma, COPD, heart disease, post-transplant, immunocompromised with cancer or on a long-term steroid or other immunosuppressant.
For aging adults with chronic conditions, the most serious complication of influenza or COVID-19 is pneumonia, which can become deadly if not treated quickly.
In addition to these
five tips to help seniors prepare for and reduce the risk of illness, following these guidelines can help limit exposure and protect from either virus.
Older adults have weaker immune systems and its possible family caregivers do as well because of stress and lack of sleep, which are common amongst those caring for others. These tips can help older adults and family caregivers improve their immune systems.
This season it is more important than ever to be vaccinated to decrease the risk of becoming ill and any complications that could arise from either virus. For seniors, influenza and complications from it can quickly develop into severe illness or death. The PHAC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot before the end of October, especially people 65 years and older since they are at high risk of complications from the flu.
Of all things to be aware of this cold and flu season, it’s of utmost importance to listen to your body and be in touch with aging loved ones to help assess any virus symptoms. Don’t be afraid to call a healthcare provider or schedule a telehealth appointment to discuss any influenza, COVID-19 or other health concerns. Remember it’s best to be proactive with any health concerns and you shouldn’t feel guilty for calling a physician or the nurse line.
For more caregiving during COVID-19 resources, visit
HomeInstead.com/Covid-19. For more information about COVID-19 and seasonal influenza, visit
Public Health Agency of Canada and the
World Health Organization (WHO).