~ by Carol Vartuli
Getting a flu shot can help seniors stay healthier during the winter months.
Chances are, you’ve been asked that question recently; it pops up frequently in conversations this time of year. It’s also impossible to avoid reminders, in local pharmacies, ‘minute’ clinics, and even big box stores. You may be wondering if vaccination is really necessary, or if it can actually give you the flu.
Let’s first be clear about influenza. It’s an illness caused by viruses that attack the respiratory system—nose, throat and lungs. Unlike a cold, it comes on suddenly, with fever, sore throat, cough, muscle aches and fatigue.
Influenza spreads easily, because when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, the virus travels through the air in droplets. Virus-laden droplets may remain infectious for several hours. Infected people become contagious even before they know they are ill. The flu is most commonly spread by personal contact.
You can also pick up the virus from touching an object — such as a telephone or computer keyboard — and then transferring it to your eyes, nose or mouth.
Washing your hands frequently, and avoiding crowds of people can limit your vulnerability. But according to the Mayo Clinic, the best way to prevent influenza is to receive the vaccine annually. Since influenza vaccines do not include live viruses, so you cannot contract the flu from a flu shot.
Underestimating the Risks
While most people recover from influenza after an uncomfortable week or two, the virus can trigger life-threatening inflammation of the respiratory tract, especially in young children and people over age 65.
“Every year in the U.S., upwards of 56,000 people – including 100 children – die from the flu and associated complications, leaving their families and communities shocked and devastated,” says Familiesfightingflu.org.
This non-profit organization’s mission is to save lives and reduce hospitalizations, by urging everyone to be vaccinated each year. The FamiliesFightingFlu website shares personal experiences of having lost otherwise healthy, unvaccinated loved ones to the flu.
Getting an annual flu shot makes it less likely that you will suffer from the flu, and less likely to be hospitalized if you do. Vaccination also protects the people you have contact with, including family, friends and co-workers.
Vaccination for Seniors is Vital.
While flu can be serious for anyone, people over age 65 are more likely to experience severe flu than younger adults. They suffer 85 percent of deaths from flu each season, and 70 percent of the hospitalizations.
As we age, our immune systems become less capable of fighting off viruses, putting older individuals at greater risk of contracting flu and developing serious complications from it. Seniors with chronic health conditions are at an even higher risk.
High-dose vaccines provide four times as much antigen (substances that provoke immune response) as regular vaccine. A study in the New England journal of Medicine indicates that high-dose vaccine is 24 percent more effective in preventing flu in adults over 65 years old.
If anyone asks “Did you get your flu shot?” or "Should I get the flu shot?" your answer should be a resounding “Yes, this year, and every year.”
The information in the above article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.