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Why should older adults take the flu vaccine?

By Peter DiMaria

Simple answer: because flu is a deadly disease and the elderly are one of the groups at high risk, i.e., most vulnerable to its consequences. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), “influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death.” Every season flu sickens millions of Americans, hospitalizes hundreds of thousands, and kills tens of thousands. Around 90% of deaths caused by flu complications are registered among older adults.

Senior woman with flu: Older adults are more susceptible to flu complications and death.

Home Care in Manchester CT and region: Most Dealy Victims are Older Adults

Most people who get sick with flu will have a mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs, and will recover in less than two weeks. Older adults, however, are more likely to get flu complications that can result in hospitalization and sometimes death. Some examples are:

  • Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections;
  • People with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have flu;
  • Flu may worsen chronic congestive heart failure.

The recent history of infections by the influenza virus in the United States should also work as a warning sign: CDC data shows that the 2017-2018 flu season was the most severe in a decade. Although less severe, last year’s outbreak was record-breaking in duration, with a high number of influenza infections for 21 weeks.

In the 2017-2018 season, 90% of the deaths related to influence were reported among people 65 years or older. Over 64 thousand older adults have died.

Elderly Care in Manchester CT: Why you should take the vaccine

The good news is that vaccination may prevent you from getting the disease. The vaccine isn’t 100% effective, but in the worst case, the CDC says that people who take it will present less severe symptoms. People who do not receive the vaccine have a higher probability of ending up in a hospital bed if they get ill.

A 2017 nationwide study showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients. People over 65 years old had the most significant benefits.

Ideally, annual vaccination will continuously protect you against the flu. Every year, the vaccine producers update it from last season’s vaccine to better match circulating viruses.

According to the CDC, last season, more than 169 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed (the most ever). Around 68% of people 65 and older were vaccinated in the United States, making them the most vaccinated among the adult population.

Senior Care in Manchester CT: Get pneumococcal vaccines

The CDC also recommends that everyone who is over 65 years of age take the pneumococcal vaccine. It will protect you against pneumococcal disease, which can cause pneumonia, meningitis, and other infections. Talk to your doctor to find out which pneumococcal vaccines he recommends for you.

Pneumococcal pneumonia is also one of the serious flu-related complications that can cause death. Therefore, even if you do get the flu, the pneumococcal vaccine will protect against developing these severe illnesses as a consequence.

Flu symptoms

The most common flu symptoms in older adults are:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse
  • Seizures
  • Not urinating
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Severe weakness or unsteadiness
  • Fever or cough that improves but then returns or worsens
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

In case you develop one or more of these symptoms, you should immediately search for medical help. The flu treatment consists of taking antiviral drugs that work better the earlier they are administered.

Home Care: Caregivers should vaccinate

Both professional caregivers and family members who look after a loved one should also get the flu shot. The reason is simple: by being protected, you help to protect those you care for.

For example, you may be exposed to the virus by unknowingly being in contact with someone who is ill at school, at the grocery store, or any other place. If you are vaccinated, you have a higher chance of being protected. Therefore, you will not carry the virus and transmit it to your loved one.

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