by Kevin K. Johnson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Everyone needs to be as healthy as possible. It’s a no-brainer right! Well it’s especially true for seniors particularly as it relates to influenza, or simply, “flu”. October usually means a change to colder weather in many locations. With the change in temperature, from the warm of summer to the chill of autumn comes the onset of flu season.
So just why is it that seniors are at higher risk during this time of the year? Because their immune system weakens as they age, adults age 65 years and older are more susceptible to the flu. For this reason, it is recommended that all seniors get the flu vaccine.
You have two options for vaccination—the regular dose flu shot and the higher-dose flu shot designed specifically for people 65 and older. Both vaccines protect against the same three flu viruses.
The 2012-2013 flu vaccine was available in 3 types:
- Regular, for people 6 months and older
- High-dose, for people 65 and older. This type contains a higher dose vaccine, which may lead to greater protection against the flu.
- Intradermal, for people 18-64. This type of shot is given with a needle 90% smaller than a regular flu shot and injected in your skin.
The higher-dose vaccine should result in a stronger immune response. Talk to your health care provider about which vaccine is right for you. Getting the flu vaccine protects you and prevents you from spreading the flu to your spouse, children, or grandchildren.
If you have flu-like symptoms such as those below, contact your health care provider immediately.
- A 100oF or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
- A cough and/or sore throat
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Headaches and/or body aches
Since seniors are at high risk for flu-related complications, a doctor may prescribe antiviral medications if they get the flu. Antiviral medications include:
- Antiviral medications are prescription pills, liquids, or inhalers used to prevent or treat flu viruses. They are approved for adults and children one year and older. There are four antiviral drugs approved for treating the flu in the United States—oseltamivir (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), amantadine (generic), and rimantadine (Flumadine).
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, we should all follow our everyday steps to keep yourself healthy this flu season. These are not senior specific. The everyday steps include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Often should be at lease 5-times per day.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
Approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu each year. Flu season typically starts in the fall and peaks in January or February or about a 6-month cycle.
Because seniors are at an increased risk of getting pneumonia, a complication of the flu, talk to your health care provider about the pneumococcal vaccine. The pneumococcal vaccine protects seniors against pneumonia.
I certainly hope this information helps all of us avoid becoming ill with the flu over the next 5-months. Good Luck!