As we age, our immune systems become less adept at fighting infections and viruses like the flu. Indeed, people ages 65 and older account for nearly sixty percent of flu-related hospitalizations. As a result, doctors generally recommend that all seniors get an annual flu shot. Vaccinations are the best ways to avoid getting sick by building up the body’s defense system against flu viruses.
The most common flu viruses this season are the influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2) and influenza B viruses. All vaccines will provide protection against these three viruses, but one high-dose form has been designed specifically for those 65 and older. This vaccine provides four times the amount of protection as the standard shot. You should talk with your healthcare provider to see what form of the vaccination is the best fit for you.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting the seasonal flu shot when it becomes available, generally in October or November before flu season is in full force from December to January. Keep in mind that it takes about two weeks post-vaccination to build up immunity, and effects typically last for six months or more. Flu vaccines are available at many doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments and pharmacies, even if you do not have a regular primary physician.
Warning signs of the flu may include shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the abdomen or chest, sudden dizziness, confusion, and severe or persistent vomiting. Symptoms of the flu itself include cough, sore throat, congestion, body aches and headache, chills, fatigue and fever. If you or a loved one is exhibiting these symptoms, contact your local health care provider. He or she will determine whether testing and treatment are needed and can readily prescribe antiviral drugs to help you get better sooner.
Other preventive measures include thorough and regular hand washing, coughing or sneezing into a tissue or elbow rather than your hands, promptly disposing of used tissues, getting enough sleep, and staying home when you are ill to avoid spreading the illness to others. Contact your local healthcare provider to see if the flu vaccine is right for you and schedule an appointment today. Stay healthy and safe this flu season!