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It’s no secret that those in their elderly years are more prone to illness than younger people, and it’s also no secret that winter is a particularly dangerous time of the year for various illnesses and conditions.

Here are some health problems to watch out for if you have elderly loved ones…


You’ll quite often see people sniffling and sneezing during the winter months, but an annoying cold to most can be potentially lethal for older people. A good way to prevent colds is to wash your hands regularly as this will wash away most of the germs that can cause colds. Also keep surfaces clean as well as items such as towels, cups and glasses as these can easily pass the infection.


A lot of people claim to have the flu when, in fact, they only have a cold. If you have the flu then it will put them out of action for quite a while and they will likely be bed-ridden. Again, like colds, the flu is potentially fatal for the elderly and many die from it each year, particularly if they have underlying health issues. Free flu jabs are available from your GP for the most vulnerable groups of people which include the elderly.

Heart Attacks

Heart attacks can strike at any time of the year but are most common in winter, likely because the cold weather increases blood pressure and makes the heart work harder to maintain body temperature. The best advice to avoid heart attacks during the winter is to keep warm, both at home and when outdoors so that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard. Of course, a healthy lifestyle is also always important when it comes to heart issues.

Painful Joints and Arthritis

If you’ve had an injury or operation then you may well have noticed that it gets more painful during the cold weather. The cold can make joints stiff, so regular light exercise can help ease the pain. However, whilst joints may be more painful over the winter, there’s no evidence to suggest that the cold weather actually causes damage or makes the problem worse.

Poor Circulation

Poor circulation, also called Raynaud’s phenomenon, is something that affects a lot of people and is more prominent in winter. It is a problem caused by blood vessels going into spasm and can cause the fingers and toes to go white and become very painful. Wearing warm clothing can help keep those areas warm, but not smoking or drinking caffeine can also help.


Depression is a condition that is often overlooked but can be immensely debilitating. Poor health and loneliness can have a severe effect on mental health and it’s not something that is so easily diagnosed or treated. If you have elderly friends or family then the best advice is to simply ensure you visit regularly, check on their health and help sort health issues as soon as they arise. If this is something that is becoming a problem, then there are various care homes for the elderly at Extra Care and other such retirement villages where there are always people and trained staff at hand to help.

Scientists have developed EP67, a new spray that helps boost the immune system can fight off flu in just two hours – even before symptoms.

The drug, delivered by a nasal spray, contains a synthetic protein that triggers the immune system to fight the flu before the body normally would.

Once a person is exposed to the flu, current treatments are designed to target the current circulating strain exactly, but the virus can sometimes develop a resistance against them.

This new treatment doesn’t need to match the virus exactly and gets the immune system to react almost immediately to the threat before the body normally would.

Scientists have developed EP67, a new spray that helps boost the immune system can fight off flu in just two hours

Scientists have developed EP67, a new spray that helps boost the immune system can fight off flu in just two hours

Flu is potentially fatal to people with a low immune system as they struggle to shake off the infection and can also be lethal to the elderly.

Researchers at San Diego State University in America focused the study on the protein EP67, which has previously been used as something added to a vaccine to help activate the immune response, but they wanted to see if it would work on its own.

They tested EP67 on mice by infecting them with a flu virus – finding those given a dose within 24 hours did not get sick, or as sick, as those not treated with the protein.

The level of illness in mice is measured by weight loss – typically mice lose about 20% of their weight when infected with the flu, but those treated with EP67 lost an average of 6%.

The researchers also found mice who were treated a day after being infected with a lethal dose of influenza did not die.

EP67 is active in animals, including birds, so the finding could also have huge implications for veterinary applications.

It could also be used if there is a new strain of the infectious disease, before the actual pathogen has been identified, like in SARS or the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak.

Future research will examine the effect EP67 has in the presence of a number of other pathogens and look closer at exactly how EP67 functions within different cells in the body.

Although this study, published in science journal PLoS ONE, focuses on the flu, EP67 has the potential to work on other respiratory diseases and fungal infections and could have huge potential for emergency therapeutics.

Professor Joy Phillips, of San Diego State University, said: “The flu virus is very sneaky and actively keeps the immune system from detecting it for a few days until you are getting symptoms.

“Our research showed that by introducing EP67 into the body within 24 hours of exposure to the flu virus caused the immune system to react almost immediately to the threat, well before your body normally would.

“When you find out you’ve been exposed to the flu, the only treatments available now target the virus directly but they are not reliable and often the virus develops a resistance against them.

“EP67 could potentially be a therapeutic that someone would take when they know they’ve been exposed that would help the body fight off the virus before you get sick.”