Well, we’ve officially entered fall and that means one thing: flu season is here. If you’ve visited the doctor recently, they’ve probably recommended a flu shot. Turns out they’re doing this for a good reason. Influenza is a serious disease that kills 36,000 people every year. Most young and healthy people don’t have to worry about developing the serious side effects that can come with a flu infection, but there are groups at very high risk. They include children younger than 5, pregnant women, and people over the age of 65. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that in recent years 54-70% of flu-related hospitalizations occurred among senior citizens. And even worse, 71-85% of seasonal flu-related deaths occurred in people over the age of 65. So clearly, the flu presents a serious risk for older Americans. So what’s the best way to protect yourself?
What You Can Do to Stay Healthy During Flu Season
The CDC recommends Americans protect themselves by taking the following steps when flu season comes around:
- Get a Flu Shot: Flu inoculations are the best way to protect yourself from infection. Fortunately they are inexpensive and easy to obtain. For maximum protection, the CDC recommends you inoculate yourself before the end of October, but vaccinations can remain effective throughout the flu season. For patients 65 and older, the CDC has developed a high-dose flu shot that produces a higher immune response in recipients, and as a result, provides a stronger level of protection. The CDC also recommends that seniors DO NOT get the nasal spray flu vaccine. It’s important to note that there’s a popular misconception that the flu vaccine gives you a mild case of the the flu. This isn’t true. In fact, the recombinant influenza vaccine is made without the flu virus.
- Practice Good Health Habits: During flu season it’s important to be vigilant about protecting your own health. This means covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, frequently washing your hands, and avoiding contact with sick people.
- If You Think You Have the Flu, Seek Treatment Immediately: Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. If you have any of these symptoms, consult your doctor right away. There are available antiviral treatments you can take that will ease the effects of the disease. The benefit is greatest if treatment begins within two days, so don’t wait!
- Get Pneumococcal Vaccines: The CDC also recommends people 65 and older get vaccinated for pneumococcal diseases like pneumonia and meningitis. These diseases often develop in conjunction with the flu and are especially deadly for older people.
Where are Vaccinations Available?
Fortunately, in the United States it’s fairly easy to find a flu shot. Websites like vaccinefinder.org will find providers based on your zip code and desired vaccination. Again, it’s important not to delay your vaccinations because during particularly active flu seasons, there can be vaccination shortages later in the winter months.
Caregivers Need to Take Action
Of course not all seniors can take action to protect themselves. Housebound seniors or seniors with physical or mental disabilities may need help obtaining their vaccinations. So it’s vital caregivers and loved ones act early to get their loved ones vaccinated. If you’re caring for an older family member in the greater Phoenix area and need help managing details like this, Generations Home Care can help. Our team of trained and vetted caregivers work in our client’s homes to help them live more independent lives. Check out our list of available services and then give us a call at 602-595-HOME (4663). You can also fill out our contact form and we’ll get back to you right away. With a little bit of prevention we can all get through flu season while staying healthy and happy!