Learn how symptoms and complications from the flu can qualify a person for either home health or hospice services.
Each year, as the season changes from summer to fall, you can rely on several things. You can guarantee that millions of people will turn on their TVs or go in person to support their favorite football team. Pumpkin spice will take over anything and everything when it comes to the flavor of the month. You can also count on being reminded, either by your pharmacist, nurse, or doctor, to get your flu shot.
Getting your flu shot each year is an easy but vital way to protect you and those you love from the flu. It is important to get the shot each year as the influenza virus is constantly adapting and evolving. With such a big emphasis given each year to getting vaccinated, you’ve probably asked yourself the following question:
“Why should I worry about the flu?”
The short answer is simple. Influenza kills. To understand the extent that this can happen, we need to travel back in time about 100 years ago. The year was 1918. A new influenza virus known as the Spanish Flu emerged, infecting 1/3 of the world’s population, or about 500 million people. The toll? The highest influenza death total to date. It killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 people in the United States. To put that in perspective, more U.S soldiers died from the Spanish Flu than were killed in battle during World War I in 1918.
Now, we did not have the tools then that we have today, like antiviral medications, antibiotics for secondary infections, or the flu shot. But even these modern medicinal breakthroughs aren’t without their limitations. Antiviral medications must be started within 2 days of developing symptoms. Even the flu shot is only about 40% to 60% effective each year.
Combined with pneumonia, influenza is currently the #9 leading cause of death annually in the United States. Over the past ten years there has been an average 28.3 million cases each year. Of those cases, the flu hospitalizes 365,000 people and kills over 34,000 people each year.
How Does Influenza Kill?
How influenza kills a person is a more complex answer. It depends on a variety of patient and viral factors. Ultimately, how influenza kills can be summarized into three categories.
Primary Influenza Infection
As the virus multiplies throughout the body, especially in the lungs, the body’s natural response is to start fighting off the virus. If the immune response is too strong, the body may destroy too much lung tissue along with the virus. If this happens, the body can no longer deliver oxygen to the blood, leading to hypoxia and death.
Triggers Organ Failure
Influenza infections often result in a worsening of any number of chronic medical conditions. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or COPD may worsen and become more difficult to manage. While less common, the added stress from an influenza infection leads to organ failure and death.
Secondary Bacterial Infection
Often, it is a secondary bacterial infection that kills a person and not the flu. As the immune system gets overwhelmed from the flu, bacteria that would normally be eradicated infects the lungs, leading to pneumonia. In some cases, it can even spread throughout the body, causing sepsis.
Who is at Risk?
As with any disease, there are certain populations that are more at risk of developing more serious side effects, including death. Adults over the age of 65 are at the top of the list. But it isn’t just the elderly who are at risk. There are several other high-risk populations including:
- Neurologic Conditions
- Chronic Lung Conditions
- Endocrine Disorders
- Heart Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Liver Disease
- BMI Greater Than 40
- Weakened Immune System
- History of Stroke
- Living at a Long-Term Care Facility
Why Choose Active Home Health and Hospice to Help You Better Manage the Flu?
Many people consider the flu to be a relatively minor illness. While this may be true for most people, a routine flu infection can lead to serious complications, especially if you or a loved one fall into any of the above categories. While very different in nature, Active offers both home health and hospice services for those struggling with the flu.
Active Home Health offers an extra set of eyes to help a person get over the flu and avoid complications. Our nurses and therapists work hand in hand with your doctor to monitor your vital signs and provide consistent relief from your symptoms to help restore your active lifestyle and independence. Any changes in your condition are addressed quickly with your provider and appropriate changes are made. Some changes that we monitor include the following:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Persistent dizziness, confusion, or an inability to arouse
- Trouble or inability to urinate
- Severe muscle pain
- Severe weakness or unsteadiness
- Fever or cough that improves but then returns or worsens
- Worsening of chronic medical conditions
If conditions do not improve or the infection progresses despite our best efforts, we help transition you or your loved one from a curative plan to one centered on providing care and comfort through our hospice care plan. At Active Hospice, we provide better quality, control, and comfort during life’s final journey. Our team of nurses, social workers, CNAs, and chaplains will help you and your loved ones avoid a prolonged dying experience and attain a better sense of closure and understanding.
Influenza can be deadly, especially to those over the age of 65. Regardless of how severe your infection is, if you or a loved one are struggling with the effects of the flu, don’t wait. Call and schedule your free in-home assessment today and experience how Active Home Health and Hospice can serve you through life’s many journeys.