Older adult blowing his nose; flu vaccines can help lessen the risk of getting the flu.

Older adults and the flu: Stay safe and healthy this year

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If you or a family member is age 65 or older, you have a higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu. Specialized flu vaccines can make you less vulnerable this flu season.

The winter months bring the spread of holiday cheer, but also the spread of the seasonal flu. Special gatherings and festivities could be ruined by the sniffles, aches, and chills.

Older adults are more likely to develop flu-related complications, such as an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, or pneumonia. To better protect yourself or a loved one from the virus, know the facts about vaccines for older adults.

Fact 1: You need a flu shot every year.

Did you get a flu shot last year? Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s enough to protect you during this flu season. New strains of the flu virus continually develop, which is why getting an annual flu shot is your best protection against the virus.

People age 65 and older make up 50 to 70% of flu-related hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are also more likely to die from the flu than people in other age groups.

Fact 2: You may benefit from a different form of flu vaccine.

Ask your clinician if one of the two types of flu vaccines specifically formulated for people age 65 and older is appropriate for you.

They are:

  1. Fluzone High-Dose vaccine. This type of vaccine has four times the amount of antigen—a substance that provokes an immune response—than a standard-dose flu shot.
  2. Fluad—adjuvanted flu vaccine. The Fluad vaccine contains an added ingredient designed to encourage a stronger immune response.

If the flu shot clinic you visit does not offer high-dose or adjuvanted vaccines, should you go with the standard shot?

“While some protection from the flu is better than none, standard-dose vaccines are often less effective in older adults,” says Patrick Boothe, DO, family medicine physician at Methodist Family Health Center – Firewheel. “Seniors who receive special flu vaccine formulas typically have an improved immune response.”

If your doctor’s office or vaccination clinic does not provide high-dose or adjuvanted flu vaccines, you can always ask for a recommendation about where you might receive one of these shots. Your clinician can help you decide which vaccination is appropriate for you.

Vaccinate against pneumococcal disease

The flu can develop into pneumococcal disease (pneumonia), a life-threatening respiratory issue. Pneumonia kills more than 18,000 older adults each year, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, but people ages 65 and older can protect against this disease through vaccination.

In fact, the pneumococcal vaccine will protect you against more than 90 types of bacteria that cause pneumonia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consult your physician to develop an immunization schedule that works best for you.

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