The flu is a concern every year for everyone but especially for those 65 years and older. With that said, it’s important to consult your primary care physician (PCP) before getting a flu shot. Ask your doctor about general guidance for navigating the flu season but simple things like hand washing and covering a cough will go a long way.
“But there are also other risks that may not be as obvious—flu increases the risk of heart attack by 3-5 times and stroke by 2-3 times in the first 2 weeks of infection for those 65+. The risk remains elevated for several months.” National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Compared to young, healthy adults, people 65 and older are at a higher risk of developing serious flu complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, and/or heart failure. Sadly, the flu mortality rate in the elderly is much higher than any other age group. Fortunately, there is a vaccine to help mitigate that risk. When it comes to protecting yourself from seasonal influenza, the flu vaccine is the best line of defense against the flu.
“In recent years, for example, it’s estimated that between 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older, and between 50 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in this age group.” CDC
You may be wondering when the elderly should get their flu shot. Because immunity may decrease faster in the elderly, it’s important not to get the flu shot too early in the season. The best times tend to be in September or October which should give protection throughout the flu season. An annual shot is important since each year, viruses change; the flu shot is updated accordingly. In combination with the fact that immunity from the shot wanes over time, it’s very important to get an annual flu shot.
There are several different types of flu shots available to those 65 and over. It’s recommended that seniors get a flu shot, not a nasal spray vaccine. Regular flu shots are approved to be used in people who are 65 and over, but there are also two vaccines that are designed specifically for seniors. The high-dose vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen and will create a stronger immune response. The adjuvanted flu vaccine contains an additive that helps to create a stronger immune response. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if either of these would be right for you.
Generally, only seniors that have a severe, life-threatening allergy to the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the flu vaccine, are advised not to get the shot. Everyone else is usually advised to get it. If you have other questions about who should not get the senior flu shot, ask your doctor. In addition to the vaccine, other best practices for protecting yourself against the flu include washing hands often, avoiding people who are sick, and covering coughs.
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