Posted on Dec 3, 2019 in Senior Tips
With fall giving way to winter, the issue of the flu shot for seniors raises its head once again.
For younger individuals, the flu is a minor nuisance involving a couple days of discomfort. Things are a little more serious for seniors, though.
We’ll be looking at why it’s vital to protect yourself against the flu as you edge into those golden years. Luckily, it’s not tough to safeguard yourself against this seasonal menace.
Before we explore the benefits delivered by flu shots, what is the flu and what should you be on the lookout for?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that infects the nose and throat. Occasionally the flu also impacts the lungs.
While the flu normally leads to fairly mild illness and a recovery period of less than two weeks, in seniors this can be much more severe and even fatal.
From sinus and ear infections to pneumonia, complications can arise.
Note: While fever does not always accompany the flu, much more serious symptoms can be triggered…
If you exhibit any of these signs, seek medical care immediately.
As we’ve already outlined, the flu is normally pretty benign. What makes it so much more dangerous in individuals over 65?
Well, first your immunity to certain diseases simply wears off over time. This alone puts you at risk.
Every year, 5% to 20% of Americans will get the flu according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Of the 200,000 people hospitalized as a result, more than 50% are adults aged 65+.
Beyond this, the CDC estimates that up to 90% of deaths attributed to complications from the flu occur in seniors. And this is where the problem gets worse. The American Lung Association’s chief medical officer states that “conditions not considered lethal can be deadly for older people.” To this end, the American Lung Association is currently campaigning to encourage all adults to stay fully up to date with vaccinations.
Older adults with lung conditions like asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) will be at heightened risk. Complications can trigger serious infections like pneumonia which can be fatal in seniors.
While this might make for sobering reading, you can easily fight back and strengthen your chances of avoiding complications from the seasonal flu this winter…
A flu vaccine is the most effective line of defense against the seasonal flu.
The CDC suggests everyone aged 6 months and up should be vaccinated against the flu by the end of October each year. Vaccination is recommended as long as flu viruses are in circulation. This can extend into January and beyond.
The core goal of vaccination is to prevent any serious infection and resultant complications, hospitalization and death from the flu. As mentioned, seniors are at heightened risk here.
Vaccines are updated on a seasonal basis to stay abreast of changing viruses. This resource from CDC shows you more about vaccine selection.
Immunity against flu also weakens over the course of a year so annual vaccination is crucial.
As you get older, changes in your immune system means you might not respond quite as well to vaccinations as younger individuals. Despite this lowered response, a flu vaccination remains the most powerful protection against this yearly illness.
If you’re aged 65 or over, you should choose the flu shot over the nasal spray form of the vaccine available.
You can get a regular flu shot that’s also approved for use in adults over the age of 65.
There are also 2 vaccines specifically developed for seniors:
Whether you opt for the regular flu shot or one of these uprated vaccines, side effects are minimal and vanish in no more than 3 days.
You can expect some redness or swelling at the site of the injection. You might also have a headache, muscle ache or general malaise.
Whatever aspect of getting older you’re struggling with, we can help here at Landmark Senior Living. From respite care and assisted living through to advice on the flu shot for seniors, feel free to contact us and we’ll do our best to set you straight.