With flu season approaching, it is important—especially for seniors—to
take precautions to avoid the risk of severe flu symptoms. It has been
recognized for many years that people 65 years and older are at more serious
risk for complications from the flu compared with younger adults, because
human immune defenses become weaker with age. According to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated between 70%
and 90% of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years
and older, and 50% to 70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations come
from this same age group.
What can you do to combat the flu this season?
- Get Your Flu Vaccine/Shot Early: The best way to protect against the flu
and its potentially serious complications is to get your flu shot each
year. The CDC recommends by the end of October for seniors because they
are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu.
- Decide Which Vaccine is Best for You: When it comes to flu vaccines, there
are choices outside the standard dose option. These decisions are even
more important for seniors to consider.
Here are two additional types of flu shots for people 65 years and older
High-Dose Flu Vaccine
The “high-dose vaccine” contains four times the amount of antigen
as a regular flu shot. It is associated with a stronger immune response
following vaccination (higher antibody production). Results from a clinical
trial performed by the CDC of more than 30,000 participants showed adults
65+ who received the high-dose vaccine had 24% fewer influenza infections
compared to those who received the standard dose.
Adjuvanted Flu Vaccine
The adjuvanted flu vaccine, Fluad, is made with MF59 adjuvant, an additive
that creates a stronger immune response to vaccination. In a Canadian
observational study, Fluad was 64% more effective than regular-dose vaccines.
(The high-dose and adjuvenated flu vaccines may result in more of the mild
side effects that can occur with standard-dose shots. Mild side effects
can include pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, headache,
muscle ache and malaise.)
Other Preventive Actions
In addition to getting the flu shot, seniors should take the same everyday
preventive actions recommended by the CDC, including covering coughs,
washing hands often, avoiding face touching, staying out of crowded places
and avoiding people who are sick. Good rest is also important. The better
rested and healthier you are, the more likely your immune system is able
to fight off infections and protect you from more severe cases of influenza.
Some emergency warning signs of flu in adults:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- 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
- Worsening of chronic medical conditions
This list is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for
any other symptoms that are of concern.
*Flu shots are available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies and flu clinics.*