Health  Vol.7 No.9 , September 2015
Older Adults’ Explanatory Models of Colds and Flu
Abstract: Systematic data collection and analysis techniques were used in Los Angeles to discover older adults’ shared explanatory models (EM) of the causes, prevention, symptoms, treatment and consequences of late life illnesses, including influenza and the common cold. Recorded narratives also were analyzed to illustrate similarities and differences in shared cultural knowledge of these illnesses. Consensus analyses results suggest that shared EM of influenza and the common cold are similar. Participants identified both illnesses as contagious, caused or exacerbated by bad weather, but not the result of life , aging or heredity. Other shared cultural knowledge includes that both illnesses can be treated with home remedies, over-the-counter medications and medical care; both illnesses cause discomfort but are not serious, life-threatening or disabling. Despite the similarities and the apparent merging of the two illnesses in popular thought, many older adults do distinguish them, based on symptom patterns and severity, as revealed in their transcribed narratives. Consistent with other studies, participants attribute gastrointestinal symptoms to influenza but not to colds. They do not understand the potential role of life , age and chronic conditions in etiology and onset, and they are not concerned with their vulnerability to the potential sequelae of influenza. Public health education explaining the effects of life on susceptibility and vulnerability to the flu, how to distinguish and appropriately treat colds and the flu, and when to contact physicians, is recommended for older adults. Mixed method studies can prove useful at the planning stages of such interventions.
Cite this paper: Hurwicz, M. and Rose, M. (2015) Older Adults’ Explanatory Models of Colds and Flu. Health, 7, 1183-1195. doi: 10.4236/health.2015.79133.

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