Updated: Oct 6
Do you care for someone over the age of 65? Are you wondering if they should get the flu shot? The answer is yes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people 65 years and older should receive the flu vaccination by the end of October each year, before the flu season starts.1 The flu shot is also encouraged for family members and caregivers of seniors.
Why is the flu shot important?
Your immune system weakens with age and an older person is less able to fight off viruses. As a result, people 65 and older are at increased risk of developing serious complications from the flu. While a younger person will recover quickly and easily, this is less likely to be the case for someone older.
As well, seniors who live with chronic conditions (such as cardiac, pulmonary, renal, metabolic, liver or hematologic diseases) or have HIV/AIDS, cancer, or are receiving steroids or chemotherapy, are at greater risk than others of being affected by the flu.
Influenza can result in serious illness, hospitalization, complications, and even death for many seniors. Pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, is the most common complication. The CDC also recommends that seniors receive the pneumococcal vaccines to help prevent pneumonia.2
What else can you do to prevent the flu?
While the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu, other preventative measures that you can take include washing your hands frequently, and avoiding people who are sick. If you do have the flu, stay home to avoid spreading the germs to others, cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, dispose of tissues, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Practice other good health habits such as drinking lots of water, getting plenty of sleep, and eating nutritious foods.
How do you know if it is the flu or just a cold?
The flu and the common cold share similar symptoms including a runny or stuffy nose, and therefore, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. In general, a cold is mild, and the flu is more serious. Flu symptoms also include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle and joint pain, headaches, chills, and fatigue.
What should you do if your loved one develops flu symptoms?
Monitor the condition closely and seek medical advice immediately. In addition to symptomatic treatment your loved one may be able to receive antiviral drugs if they are at risk of complications. These drugs should be administered by a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
The flu shot is important for seniors and caregivers. While it doesn’t guarantee that you or your loved one will not get the flu, it is the best protection. A high dose vaccine designed specifically for people 65 and older, has been approved for use in the United States since 2009.3 It will lower your risk, and may lessen the severity of the symptoms if you are misfortunate enough to get the flu.
Put a reminder on your calendar to contact your healthcare provider each fall, and get the flu shot for you and your loved one before the flu season starts!