How Seniors Can Avoid the Flu and Related Complications

Colder weather has become synonymous to flu season, or a time where people have a higher risk of getting the flu. The New York Times reported that we could predict how bad the upcoming flu season would be by looking at figures from Australia, which experiences winter from June to August.

Australia was hit even harder this year, predicting higher risks for those in the US.

According to the director of the influenza division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan, the best move is to get the flu vaccine now. Since the flu virus is fast evolving, the vaccine may not prevent the flu 100% but it makes sure it won’t affect you as badly.

When you’re over 65, your immune system is hardly as strong as it used to be. This occurs naturally as we age and the yearly flu shot becomes a must. There’s a stronger version of the vaccine that offers more protection, so ask your doctor about it.

The flu is a minor inconvenience to younger, healthier people, but adults over 65 and those with chronic illness have a higher risk of serious flu complications.

Complications include:

  • Pneumonia – a bacterial respiratory illness where one experiences chest pains, coughs, shaking, and sweating. It’s the fourth leading cause of death among seniors, who can avoid it with a pneumonia vaccine.

  • Bronchitis – an inflammation of the lungs. Some forms of bronchitis leave the body after two to three weeks, but other forms could be recurring.

  • Heart failure – according to the British Heart Foundation, seniors have a higher risk of heart failure and heart attacks after getting the flu. Some flu medicines can potentially cause blood clots, so it’s best to consult your doctor before buying any.

Flu season in the US typically runs from October to March every year. The CDC reports 70 to 85% of flu-related deaths are seniors, while 70% of flu-related hospitalizations are over the age of 65. However, getting the vaccine reduces the likelihood of flu-related hospitalizations by 50%.

Any doctor of healthcare professional can administer the flu vaccine. You can go to your doctor’s office, a pharmacy, or a blood-testing lab to get protection against the disease. Some providers would even administer the shot for free.

Side effects are often rare and not serious, and getting the vaccine won’t mean you’ll get the flu. If you have had allergic reactions in the past or are currently experiencing a high fever, doctors may advise against it.

Other than the vaccine, you can also prevent the flu by practicing a healthy lifestyle and wearing a mask to reduce the risk of infection. Symptoms may not appear until four days after exposure so it’s best to seek medical attention when you start feeling ill. Your health is always a priority!