Three tips for senior safety during flu season
1. Avoid contact with individuals who are displaying any recent symptoms of respiratory illness (coughing, sneezing, fevers, etc.)
2. Keep your body active and continue to eat a healthy, balanced diet – these are the most effective ways to build a strong immunity
3. Wash your hands frequently and wear a mask when in crowded spaces
This article appeared in the November 2021 issue of The Link. To receive Oak Valley Health’s community newsletter, subscribe now.
Everyone can benefit from the protection offered by an influenza (flu) vaccination. However, seniors aged 65 and older are more vulnerable to the flu, and therefore have a greater need for the yearly shot. The Link sat down with Dr. Raza M. Naqvi, Geriatric Medicine Specialist at Markham Stouffville Hospital, to answer a few questions about seniors and the flu.
Q. What should seniors know about the influenza vaccine?
A. The influenza vaccine protects individuals from multiple potential influenza viruses each year. It reduces the risk of being infected as well as the severity of illness if one does get the flu. It is highly recommended for all individuals over the age of six months and especially the elderly or those with other medical conditions.
Q. When should seniors get the flu vaccine?
A. Getting the flu vaccine earlier in the season is generally more beneficial as it can take up to two weeks for immunity to develop. It is difficult to predict exactly when the ‘flu season’ may start, so getting the vaccine early will help protect you for the entire winter season.
Q. How effective is the flu shot for seniors?
A. The efficacy of the flu vaccine varies yearly based on the strains of influenza that are present in the community and those used in the vaccine. It is very clear however that the benefits of this well-tolerated vaccine are substantial in older adults and studies have shown significant reductions in hospitalizations, Intensive Care Unit stays, and deaths.
Q. Can seniors get a COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time?
A. Yes, the vaccines work differently and therefore are compatible to be given together. However, keep in mind that you may feel a bit tired for a few days after the vaccines. This is because your body is building immunity to protect you for the future. Some vulnerable individuals may want to space out their vaccines by a week or so to minimize this effect on any given day.
Q. What is the usual impact of influenza, and is it worse for older adults?
A. Thankfully most people who get influenza recover after a few days. It is often associated with fevers, chills, and respiratory symptoms. In older adults, the effect of influenza can be much more significant. There is a higher incidence of hospitalizations and death from influenza as we get older and so protecting yourself is very important.
Q. What type of vaccine is recommended for seniors?
A. You should discuss this with your health care provider, however, the general recommendation for adults over the age of 65 is to receive the high dose vaccine as it provides a more robust immune response that will protect you more effectively through the flu season.