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Coronavirus in the Elderly: Signs, Symptoms & Prevention

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Coronavirus in the Elderly: Signs, Symptoms & Prevention

March 02, 2020

What Is the Coronavirus?

The coronavirus is a family of viruses responsible for causing colds and acute respiratory conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A newly identified coronavirus appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China. This strain of virus is called COVID-19, which is an abbreviation for coronavirus disease.

On March 11, 2020, COVID-19 was classifed as a pandemic. That means it affects the entire world. New virus infections are always a concern to public health, and the CDC is closely monitoring and communicating about the risk of this virus and its spread.

adult man washing his hands with soap in the sink

Because it is new, people have little or no immunity against COVID-19. That’s what makes it so contagious. Most people who get the virus will recover in a few days to a few weeks. But like any virus, those who are at elevated risk at this time for contracting the virus are those who are caring for someone with COVID-19, those who have close contact with someone who has the virus or those returning from an international location where community spread of the virus is occurring.

Seniors who are in fragile health or who have chronic medical conditions could be especially susceptible to the effects of the virus. That’s why it is important to know how to protect yourself and what to do if you show symptoms.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Coronavirus in the Elderly?

It’s important to know that the symptoms of coronavirus in seniors are no different than symptoms in anyone else. COVID-19 symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory viruses:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue

Coronavirus and Pneumonia

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. Those who have it can develop pneumonia, and in the elderly the development of pneumonia can happen quickly. Impaired immunity, frailty and underlying health conditions can make it difficult for a senior to fight pneumonia or other bacterial infections of the lungs. Be aware of the symptoms of pneumonia and check with your doctor if you or a senior loved one develops them.

What Should You Do if You Have Symptoms?

Coronavirus in the elderly can be especially dangerous. Seniors may be at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19, particularly those who have chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart disease or who are otherwise in fragile health. These seniors should check with their doctor promptly if they show any of the symptoms of COVID-19 mentioned above.

Once you see your doctor, you may be prescribed antiviral drugs. Antiviral drugs can help lessen coronavirus symptoms in seniors and shorten its duration.

For others who exhibit symptoms but who are not at higher risk from the virus, over-the-counter medications can help treat the symptoms. Some medications combine two or more of the following drugs. Be sure to read labels carefully and understand side effects. For example, some decongestants can raise blood pressure and some cough medications can be dangerous if you take certain other prescription medications.
  • Fever reducers: Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help lower high fevers that are common with viruses.
  • Pain relievers: Naproxen and aspirin can relieve the muscle pain and sore throat that is associated with the virus.
  • Decongestants: Pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine can help to alleviate stuffy or runny noses.
  • Cough medications: Dry coughs can be treated with cough suppressants like dextromethorphan. A cough with mucus can be managed with guaifenesin.

How to Prevent the Spread of the Coronavirus

Coronavirus/ COVID-19 is spread in three ways:
  • Coughing and sneezing.
  • Touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes.
  • Close contact with a person who has the virus.

You can help protect yourself and your loved ones from the coronavirus/ COVID-19 in the same ways you would protect against flu:

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
  • If you sneeze or cough, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sneeze or cough into your elbow. Wash your hands afterward.
  • If you are sick, stay home until your fever is gone for a full 24 hours.
  • If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 and prescribed antiviral drugs, take that mediation as directed.
  • Keep away from others who are sick.
image of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

What Is Being Done to Control the Spread of the Virus in the U.S.?

There are focused global efforts to contain the spread and lower the impact of this virus. In the United States, the federal government is working closely with state, local, tribal and territorial partners, as well as public health partners, to respond to this public health threat. This response is multilayered and focused on detecting and minimizing introductions of the virus to the U.S. and preparing communities to respond to local transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

How Elmcroft Is Taking Precautions Against the Coronavirus

The health, safety and well-being of Elmcroft residents is our top priority. That’s why we are taking these proactive steps to keep our communities safe:
  • We are working closely with the public health departments of the states where our communities are located and taking advice from the CDC.
  • We undertake careful protocols to clean and disinfect our communities, especially high-touch areas.
  • Our staff are educated in and practice strict standard precautions in hand hygiene and coughing/sneezing etiquette.
  • Hand sanitizers are readily available throughout our communities.
  • Personal protective equipment (gloves, masks and sanitizers) are available to staff and residents.

Please see the COVID-19 update on our website for the most up-to-the minute information about how we are handling the situation in all our communities. We are monitoring all federal, state, and local alerts, and following updated requirements for senior living communities like ours. We’re also sure to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We remain strong in our commitment to guard the health and safety of our residents and associates. 

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