Influenza can inflict a host of unpleasant symptoms at any age: chills, dehydration, fatigue, fever, congestion, cough, sore throat, loss of appetite, achiness, and/or sweating. As we get older, though, the flu becomes even more challenging. In fact, if you’re 65+, the flu presents higher risks for complications; up to 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people over 65.
Turn the odds in your favor with a flu shot. In years where the vaccine is effectively matched against the season's flu, it reduces the risk of illness by 40-60 percent.
How does the flu shot help?
The Centers for Disease Control recommends a yearly flu vaccine as “the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.” Not only can the shot keep you healthier, but also those around you. Especially as we continue to suffer the effects of COVID-19, we can all help lower the pressure on our health system by not contracting the flu.
Flu vaccines are designed to protect against the four flu viruses that research indicates will be most common this year. Aim to get the vaccine by the end of October or early November if possible. The CDC recommends the flu shot for everyone older than 6 months.
Which flu vaccine should I get?
If you are 65 years old or older, choose the flu shot over the nasal spray. You can get any flu vaccine approved for your age group. Along with regular flu shots, there are two vaccines specifically designed for 65 years and up.
- The high-dose vaccine (brand name Fluzone High-Dose) contains four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot, and it is associated with a stronger immune response. This shot has been approved for use in people 65 years and older in the United States since 2009.
- The adjuvanted flu vaccine (brand name Fluad Quadrivalent) is made with MF59 adjuvant, an additive that helps create a stronger immune response. The adjuvanted vaccine became available for the first time in the United States during the 2016-2017 flu season.
How can I prevent flu spread?
Just as we’re all working to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we can take similar precautions to lessen flu spread.
- Avoid contact with people who are ill.
- If you become ill, stay away from others as much as possible. The CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without using fever-reducing medication) unless you need to seek medical care.
- Cover coughs and sneezes — sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands.
- Throw away used tissues immediately after use.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Use an alcohol-based hand rub if you can’t wash your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to avoid germ spread.
What if I get the flu?
The following recommendations can help in the treatment of flu:
- Influenza antiviral drugs help fight the flu by keeping flu viruses from making more viruses inside your body.
- Antiviral drugs can make your flu illness milder and prevent serious health complications.
- Treatment with an influenza antiviral drug should begin as soon as possible because these medications work best when started early (within 48 hours after symptoms start).
- There are four FDA-approved flu antiviral drugs recommended by CDC this season that can be used to treat the flu.
When should I worry?
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms of the flu, seek help.
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Worsening of chronic medical conditions
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse
- Not urinating
- Severe muscle pain
- Severe weakness or unsteadiness
- Fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen
The Brandermill Woods Wellness Nurses offer an annual flu shot clinic for residents. We encourage everyone to fight the flu with a vaccine, and stay well for the holidays to come.