Preventing the Flu For Seniors at Risk

Updated 8/4/15 11:02am | Alert1 wants to help seniors keep immune during the coming flu season.  Doctors warn seniors to stay vigilant in their walk with health. It’s especially important to take care of yourself as the flu virus peaks during the fall and winter months. As a senior, you are at a higher risk for catching this bug. Your risk also increases if you have chronic health conditions. Senior caregivers play an important role in flu prevention and detection. In this article we’ll equip you with all you need to know to keep healthy this winter.

As most people know, your immune system weakens as you age. But there are things seniors can do to help protect themselves. The seasonal flu can become a very dangerous virus resulting in dehydration and possibly pneumonia. 90% of all flu-related deaths and more than 50% of flu related hospitalizations arise in people age 65 and over. In 2015, predominant strains in the flu virus (H3N2) made seniors especially vulnerable.

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Seniors and the Flu Vaccine

The flu vaccine is available before and during flu season at any doctor’s office and many pharmacies. If you’re a senior with medicare you receive annual coverage for the flu vaccine, during flu season. Getting the flu vaccine before the flu season is the best way to protect yourself and protect others by eliminating the possibilities of spreading it to your spouse, children or friends. Also if you receive the vaccine early you don’t have to be concerned about any shortages or availability for the general public.

There are potential side effects that occur among seniors that receive the flu vaccine. It’s common for soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site. Older adults may develop a mild fever, feel body aches or feel fatigued after getting the flu shot. It’s unlikely for you to develop life-threatening health effects from the vaccine. Any side effects of the shot are much milder when compared to seniors that actually contract the flu. However if you have trouble breathing, hives, feel weak or dizzy or have a fast heartbeat you want to seek immediate medical attention.

There are two common forms of the flu vaccine. The regular flu shot and the high-dose flu shot (for people 65 and up) both protect from three flu viruses. The high-dose shot will produce a stronger response from your immune system and increase protection level. Ask your health provider about which vaccine is right for you. 

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Other Flu Prevention Methods for Seniors

Seniors can protect themselves with more than just the vaccine during flu season. Follow some of these simple, everyday steps:

1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. If you don’t have access, use other preventions such as hand sanitizers.
2. Avoid spreading germs. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
3. If you are experiencing flu like symptoms, avoid contact with people until 24 hours after your symptoms have stopped.
4. Avoid contact with sick people and practice good health habits. Eat healthy, hydrate yourself, exercise and get plenty of sleep.

Symptoms of the Flu

Flu related symptoms include fever, cough, body aches, headache, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and chills. It’s also common for seniors to have diarrhea and vomiting. Occasionally the flu affects your respiratory system without symptoms of fever. Seniors can contract the flu virus outside of the winter season, but the illness won’t be as severe as during the colder months of the year. If you happen to get the flu, contact your doctor immediately. Since seniors are considered high risk when they contract the flu, doctors will normally prescribe anti-viral medications (Tamiflu and Relenza) to help relieve the symptoms.

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Alert1 wants you to stay well and avoid getting the flu this winter. The best line of defense against the flu virus is getting vaccinated. For older adults looking for more protection, a senior medical alert system can call for immediate help when you’re ill. Senior help buttons are fast to respond. At the push of a button you’ll get all the help you need. Our emergency command center agents stay with you until help arrives.