The experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe that it’s more important now than ever in 2020 for older adults to get a flu vaccination because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Statistically speaking, older adults over age 65 are more likely to require hospitalization after contracting COVID-19, and their death rates are higher too. The same goes for the flu. That means that it is crucial for older adults to get the flu vaccination in 2020 and to practice good prevention methods as we move into cold and flu season.
Complications from the flu are more likely in older adults than their younger counterparts due to the changes to their immune system. The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself. Experts recommend individuals about six months and older get the vaccine by the end of October 2020. The flu vaccine will available through the duration of flu season, which can last well past January, but the sooner you get the shot, the better.
Flu vaccines are updated each year, which makes it crucial you get one yearly. Additionally, your immunity can diminish, so the previous year’s vaccination simply won’t do the trick for the next flu season. The vaccine is designed to target what is predicted to be the most common flu viruses of this season. Once the vaccine is received, it takes about two weeks to gain immunity.
The flu vaccination can be administered via shot or a nasal spray. If you are 65 years or older, you should get the shot, not the nasal spray. There are two vaccines specifically designed for the older population: the high dose flu vaccine and the adjuvanted flu vaccine. The high dose vaccine contains four times the antigen amount when compared to the regular flu vaccination. The adjuvanted flu vaccine is designed to elicit a strong immune response. These vaccines designed for older adults may produce higher immunity, fewer hospitalizations, and fewer cases, but they don’t come without some side effects. The usual flu shot side effects, such as injection site pain or redness, body aches, or headaches, may be more pronounced for a few days.
Additional Preventative Measures
While getting the flu shot is the first step, slowing the spread of the flu is dependent on individuals practicing good hand hygiene, staying home when sick, and covering coughs/sneezes. Older adults can also protect themselves by exercising regularly, following a diet rich in nutrients, and prioritizing mental health.
Symptoms of the flu include the usual cold symptoms like sore throat, cough and runny nose, with the addition of chills, fatigue, a fever, and even vomiting or diarrhea. Antiviral drugs can help if you contact your doctor at first sign of the flu, so be sure you seek out medical treatment immediately.