Question: Getting the flu is just so miserable. Am I at a higher risk of getting the flu this fall because I’m getting older?
Answer: I think we can all agree that the flu is awful! Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
People who are over the age of 65 are at a higher risk of developing complications resulting from the flu than younger, healthy adults. Our human immune defenses become weaker with age, so influenza can be a very serious disease for people 65 and older.
There are actions you can take to prevent the flu. Here are the recommended preventative measures outlined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Get Your Flu Shot
The best way to prevent the flu is with a flu vaccine. CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available in your community. Vaccination is especially important for people 65 years and older because they are at increased risk for complications from flu.
This season’s vaccine will protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the 2009 H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season. You should get vaccinated this year even if you got a 2009 H1N1 or a seasonal vaccine last year because the vaccine viruses have been updated. Immunity sets in about two weeks after vaccination, and the flu vaccine provides protection that lasts throughout the entire flu season.
This season, people 65 years and older will have two flu shots available to choose from—a regular dose flu vaccine and a new flu vaccine designed specifically for people 65 and older with a higher dose. This should result in a stronger immune response. Both vaccines will protect against the same three viruses. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the best option for you.
Take Everyday Preventive Actions
There are preventative actions you can take very day to prevent getting the flu. This includes covering you mouth when you cough, washing your hands often, and avoiding others who are sick.
Seek Medical Advice Quickly if you Develop Symptoms
If you suspect you may have the flu, it’s best to get checked out right away to see whether you need medical evaluation or treatment with antiviral drugs. It’s very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat flu in people who are very sick with flu, like people who are in the hospital, and people who are sick with flu and have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications, like people 65 and older.
The CDC has a wealth of resources available that will help you learn more about the flu, symptoms, preventative measures, vaccines, treatments, and more. Visit their web site at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.