SENIOR HEALTH: UNITED STATES INFECTIOUS DISEASES

Feb 12th, 2012 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

Most Common Diseases

Thousands of senior citizens love to travel around the United States. Retirement affords the time, and usually the means, to enjoy exploring the lower 48.  We can do so more safely if we are aware of the most common illnesses we could acquire while traveling. Let’s take a look at them and how we can prevent acquiring them.

Diarrhea

One of the most common problems seniors experience while traveling is diarrhea. This issue can interfere with the best-laid plans of us all.  We seniors are prone to colon issues anyway; diarrhea is just one of the issues we come up with.  It can be caused by bacteria or virus or parasites, or it can be part of a disease process such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or one of the various types of colitis that have been identified by medical science. If you have a problem with your colon to begin with, you need to be sure to take medications your primary care physician has prescribed along with you when you travel.  In addition, you need to be aware how you can try to prevent bacterial or viral or parasitic diarrhea.  Be sure you

  • wash your hands carefully and often
  • wash any fresh produce you eat on the trip
  • be sure your meat is well-cooked

If you do not have a pre-existing colon-related illness and you develop diarrhea for more than a few days while traveling, seek medical attention at an urgent care center.  Whether it is bacterial or viral or parasitic, it likely will need medical attention.

Flu (Influenza)

Although seniors are more likely to contract the flu during flu season, we can get it any time during the year in which we are exposed to the virus. Again, good hygiene is critical to prevent infection of all kinds.  However, remember the admonitions your physician offered the last time you were inoculated:  if you’re around someone with flu symptoms, leave; if you feel sick, go home (or isolate  yourself while traveling); get medical attention if your symptoms worsen; be sure you get your flu shot every year unless otherwise directed by your physician.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease comes from ticks.  Areas in the US with the highest incidence are the Northeast, North-Central and Mid-Atlantic states; Northern California and states that have heavily forested areas are also high risk areas.  Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever and a rash.  Early treatment is essential for a full recovery.  Read about it here. If you spend time in wooded areas, be sure to check your clothing and skin for ticks. Be meticulous about looking.  Those little critters can hide really well.  Remove it with a tick remover you can get at local drug stores or on the Internet, or with tweezers.  If you develop symptoms of Lyme disease, be sure to contact your physician.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

RMSF is very much like Lyme disease and has much the same symptoms.  It is more likely found in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina.  Be very careful when you travel to wooded areas; examine your body carefully for ticks, and remove them carefully.  You should follow the same precautions as with Lyme disease.  If you find a tick on your body and remove it, and you subsequently develop symptoms, be sure to tell your physician or urgent care health professional about the tick. Preventive antibiotics could be important.

West Nile Virus

WNV is carried by mosquitoes.  They get it from birds.  Again, symptoms are very much like the flu.  Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so be careful in the temperate southern states in spring and summer; use insect repellant and cover your arms and legs when outside at times mosquitoes are likely to bite (such as dusk) Read more about WNV here.

THIS DISCUSSION IS INTENDED TO ALERT READERS TO THE RISKS OF THESE ILLNESSES WHILE TRAVELING IN THE UNITED STATES.  IT IS NOT INTENDED TO OFFER MEDICAL ADVICE AND SHOULD NOT REPLACE READERS’ GETTING MEDICAL ATTENTION FROM THEIR PHYSICIAN.



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