What Every Senior Needs to Know About the Flu Vaccine
The Centers for Disease Control urge everyone to get vaccinated against the flu, but this advice is especially important for seniors. That’s because as you get older, your immune system gets weaker. That means you’re more susceptible to catching the flu and it will hit you harder than it would if you were 25. The implications are pretty scary: 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in people over the age of 65 according to the CDC. That’s why, even if the flu vaccine isn’t perfect, it is still so important for seniors to get it.
Here are some other important things to keep in mind:
- You can get either the regular flu vaccine or a high-dose shot. Both are made up of the three most likely flu strains every season, but the high-dose option has four times the amount of the flu virus antigen, which is what stimulates your immune system. The result: Better protection against the virus. There might be more side effects after the high-dose shot, so speak with your doctor before making the decision.
- If you have flulike symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills, etc.), immediately talk to your doctor about antiviral medications. These prescriptions can fight against the flu, but work best when taken within two days of symptoms beginning. Doctors are more likely to prescribe antiviral medications for seniors since they can not only shorten the time you’re sick, but also cut down on the risk of complications like pneumonia.
- Your doctor will likely also suggest a pneumococcal vaccine, since you are at higher risk of getting pneumonia if you get the flu. This year the CDC added getting the pneumococcal vaccine to the list of recommended steps seniors take before the flu season. Unlike the flu vaccine, which needs to be done annually, the pneumococcal vaccine lasts your lifetime. There are two separate pneumococcal vaccines, and experts recommend waiting six months between getting them to minimize side effects.
Photo credit: Lance McCord