Seniors & Influenza: Do Vaccines Work?

· 5 min read

Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is an illness that can be contracted and spread by coming in contact with an infected individual.

Flu symptoms will present themselves differently in everyone, but common signs and symptoms of the flu are: aches, chills, fever, cough, headache, body aches, tiredness and a sore throat or runny nose. It is important to note that not all of these symptoms have to be present in order to be diagnosed with the flu.

If an individual contracts the flu, it is encouraged that he or she goes to the doctor within 24-hours of the first onset symptoms. Pending a doctor evaluation, there may be a medication given to the patient called Tamiflu, that will help the symptoms subside in a quicker manner. Treatment for the flu normally includes rest, plenty of fluids and simply taking it easy until the virus is out of the individuals’ system.

However, as medicine has improved over time, doctors have created a flu shot that can help individuals protect themselves against influenza. It is especially important for seniors, especially those 65 years or older, to protect themselves against the flu by getting the flu shot.

Why Should Seniors Vaccinate?

Although the flu is a serious illness for all people that contract the virus, it is especially dangerous for seniors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that seniors are more likely to experience severe complications from the flu, sometimes leading to death. According to the CDC, about 70-90% of flu related deaths are from individuals that are in the ‘senior’ category. As we age, our bodies eventually develop a much weaker immune system, which in turn results in a weaker defense against viruses and illness. It is recommended that seniors obtain a flu shot each year by the end of October, as influenza season rapidly approaches after that time. Flu vaccines are updated each season in order to fight against the latest strain and type of flu that is affecting the masses. Vaccines are not guaranteed to keep the influenza illness away from each individual that receives one, but it will increase their chances of going through flu season healthy and happy.

There are two different types of flu shots for seniors: the high-dose flu vaccine and the adjuvanted flu vaccine. These two are designed especially for individuals 65 years of age or older, giving them the best protection against influenza. Doctors recommend elderly individuals obtain the flu vaccine and avoid the nasal spray, as the vaccines will protect them better.

The high-dose vaccine is designed to give elderly individuals the defense their body needs in order to fight off influenza. It can be administered by a medical professional and should be administered each year. It is important to note that medical professionals may prefer one vaccine over another for individuals, depending on specific cases and past experiences.

Alternatively, the adjuvant vaccine is a vaccine that is made with the elderly in mind. It is designed specifically to provide defense in an individual’s body that needs it the most and hopes to create a much stronger reaction to a vaccine than a generic flu shot. It is made with MF59, which is an oil-in-water- emulsion of squalene oil. It is imperative to check with medical professionals which vaccine is proper for seniors, as it may vary prom person to person.

What if a Senior Gets the Flu?

If an elderly individual does get the flu, plenty of rest and fluids are recommended. After seeing their primary doctor for medication and/or a care plan, considering an in-home caregiver is the next step. Caregivers can help the individual with medication reminders, light housekeeping, meal preparation and personal care when they are on temporary bed rest. A caregiver can be the support system an elderly individual needs in order to get through a flu this season!

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