Winter is approaching, which means flu season is too. And, this year, we need to protect ourselves not only from influenza, but also the Coronavirus. That’s why it’s even more essential to take the proper precautions, especially for our senior patients who are more vulnerable to severe symptoms. The best way to protect yourself is to get your flu vaccine.
However, some seniors may be apprehensive about getting the flu shot. Some might not see the need, while others might be afraid it will actually give them flu symptoms. Furthermore, it can also be daunting to decide which vaccine to take since there are so many options. In this post, we hope to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
What is influenza and how does it spread?
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus A or B, which affects the nose, throat and lungs. The virus spreads through droplets that expel from the mouths of infected people who’ve coughed or sneezed. The droplets can then be inhaled or transferred by touching an infected area and then your nose, mouth or eyes.
Influenza can cause mild to serious symptoms. Common symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue. In some cases, people over the age of 65, with chronic health problems or a weak immune system can develop further complications such as pneumonia. Complications can lead to hospitalization or even death.
Prevention against the flu
The most important thing you can do to avoid the flu is limit your chances of being exposed to it. Make sure to thoroughly and frequently wash your hands, avoid touching your face and stay clear of anyone showing symptoms. If you live with anyone or have company over, make sure to keep your surfaces nice and clean.
The second method is to get vaccinated. Every year, vaccines are adjusted to keep up with the ever-changing influenza virus. The vaccine contains inactive fragments of the flu virus, which triggers your immune system and creates antibodies that protect you from getting sick. Two weeks after the injection, your body will learn how to detect the flu and attack it, should it enter your system.
In general, to prevent or even help fight the flu or COVID-19, a healthy lifestyle is important to maintain. Make sure to eat nutritious meals, drink plenty of water, and include some exercise in your daily routine. All of these good habits strengthen your immune system. The stronger your immune system, the easier it will be to fight off illnesses.
Can the vaccine give you influenza?
No, the vaccine consists of dead influenza strains that cannot be revived. Therefore, there is no way to get infected by those strains inside the vaccines.
Which vaccine is right for you?
Each year, many vaccines are produced. To determine which vaccine is right for you, we recommend speaking with your healthcare provider. Finding the correct vaccine for your immune system is key to fighting off any strains of influenza.
Higher Dose Flu Shot
The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine contains four ingredients designed to give seniors a higher level of antibodies to fight off the virus. This does not mean the higher dose flu shot is necessarily right for all individuals over 65. Depending on one’s medical history, the regular adult dose might be safer for some seniors and others than the higher dose.
Together with your doctor, figure out which vaccine is the most appropriate one for you.
How effective and safe are the flu vaccines?
Since the virus is continuously changing, scientists need to discover the different influenza strains and predict which ones will be present in the upcoming winter. As long as their predictions are well matched with the actual virus, the CDC expects the vaccine to reduce flu illnesses by 40-60 percent. Even if it’s not a well-matched vaccine, it can still lessen the severity of any symptoms.
However, the effectiveness is generally less for seniors since their immune systems aren’t as strong. Nonetheless, getting a flu shot is still recommended because it can lower the severity of potential symptoms.
For over 50 years, people have been safely receiving flu vaccines. Scientists have been thoroughly studying it and highly recommend anyone over the age of six months to take it each year.
As far as side-effects, you may experience minor soreness or redness of the arm, which shouldn’t last long.
Can the flu shot help prevent the Coronavirus?
Unfortunately, no. However, to help reduce your chances of getting the Coronavirus, it’s important to have a strong and healthy immune system. By getting a flu vaccine, your immune system won’t have the chance to be weakened by the flu.
Since the flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, but require different treatments. Time is of the essence. A quick and correct diagnosis can prevent further complications which often arise in the senior population. If your physician knows you received a flu vaccine, your physician can more quickly determine whether or not you were infected with COVID-19.
Is the flu shot covered by Medicare?
Yes, as long as your health provider accepts Medicare, there should be no fee.
Where can I get the flu shot?
At Clare Medical, we travel around to independent living communities, senior centers, and personal residences all across New Jersey. We have both flu shots that are suitable for people 65 and older. You and your healthcare provider will ultimately decide on the right vaccine and the amount of dosage. If you’d like us to visit your location call (609) 474-0120 or email Contact@GetClare.com. You can also make an appointment with a Clare physician.
This winter, be prepared. With the flu shot, you can protect yourself from the flu and provide your immune system with a fighting chance against COVID-19.