You’ve probably seen more “Get Your Flu Shot Today!” signs than you can count around your hometown. But have you buckled down and gotten a flu shot yet? If you’re an older adult, you should: your age means that preventing the flu is more important than ever.
Why does getting older increase my risk?
As you age, your immune system gets weaker. This means that seniors over age 65 are most susceptible to the flu, and that if you get the flu, it can be very serious. Ninety percent of all flu-related hospitalizations and deaths happen to people age 65 and over.
How can I stay healthy this flu season?
The best thing you can do is get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available in your area. Medicare will cover the vaccine once every flu season. This flu season, the flu vaccine is made of three different kinds of vaccine virus, decided upon by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The vaccine viruses are chosen to maximize the chance that the vaccine will protect from the viruses most likely to spread in the upcoming season. Since the WHO has to predict how viruses will spread and change in the future, the vaccine is not a guarantee that you won’t get sick, but it does significantly improve your odds.
If you’re age 65 or over, you have two choices in vaccine this year: the regular influenza vaccine, and a high-dose vaccine called Fluzone High-Dose. Both protect against the same viruses, but the high-dose vaccine creates a stronger immune response. Talk to your health care professional about which is right for you.
What else can I do?
You should also take everyday measures to protect yourself against the flu, such as:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water.
- If you can’t get to a sink, use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Stay away from sick people as much as possible.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough.
- Get plenty of sleep, exercise, drink plenty of fluids, and eat right.
- If you are sick with the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
What if I get the flu?
If you think you may have the flu, contact your doctor immediately. Since older adults are at high risk of complications from the flu, your health care provider may prescribe antiviral medications to lessen the severity of your illness and help you recover faster.
Flu season is a nuisance, but if if you take the right steps, you can prevent it from becoming a danger. Get a flu shot and practice the right precautions, and you’ll be feeling great all season.
What steps do you take in your everyday life to prevent the flu? Share with us in the comments below!