Flu Shots for Seniors

Aug 3, 2016

Flu Shots for Seniors

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The flu may not seem like a dangerous illness to most. However, the truth is that for seniors, flu season can quickly turn deadly. Older adults with the flu aged 65 or older find themselves at increased risk for falls, hospitalization, complications, and even death.

Of all flu-related hospitalizations that occur, over half of them are seniors. Seniors are also responsible for 90 percent of all flu-related deaths. With statistics like that, it's easy to see why the flu should be taken seriously.

Flu Prevention for Seniors

Because seniors have declining immune systems, making it harder to fight off infections, the first step to fighting influenza begins with prevention. To prevent the flu, everyone knows that you should frequently wash your hands, but seniors should also stay away from large groups of people when they, or others, are sick. Obviously, in some senior living communities or homes, this is not always possible.

If your senior is living in a nursing or assisted living home, the employees there are typically required to get a flu vaccine which will greatly help the residents defend against flu season. Though only 70 to 90 percent effective, seniors should also get a flu vaccine every fall to avoid catching the illness.

If seniors are covered under Medicare part B, they will not have to pay to get their flu shot, as long as a Medicare provider gives it. For seniors that are not covered under Medicare Part B, if you still have health insurance, under the Affordable Care Act, flu shots are preventative services and should be provided at no cost to you.

If you or your senior loved one does not have health insurance, there are many retail pharmacies like Costco, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart that offer flu shots with prices ranging from around $15 to $40 depending on what type of flu vaccine you would like.

High Dose Flu Vaccines

There are a number of different high-dose flu vaccines available for seniors over the age of 65. These vaccines contain four times the amount of the active ingredient than the regular flu vaccine. It also has been associated with a higher antibody production after vaccination.

Because seniors have immune systems that cannot fight off infections as well as younger bodies can, this vaccine can greatly improve the chances that a senior will have a flu-free season.

Other Flu Prevention Measures

If for some reason your senior is unable to get a flu shot, they may be able to receive prescription anti-viral medication from their doctor.

There are also two vaccines that are available to prevent pneumonia, which is one of the most severe and common complications of the flu in the elderly population. The CDC suggests that if adults over the age of 65 are in good health, they may want to consider getting both a flu and pneumonia vaccine.

FluMist, and other nasal spray vaccines, is not recommended for adults over the age of 49.

Don’t forget to practice good hygiene and wash your hands to avoid catching or spreading the flu. This is especially important after sneezing or coughing, and touching things like railings, or doorknobs in public spaces. Caregivers of seniors should also practice good hand washing techniques.

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Frequently Asked Questions

My father has had a cough for sometime now. He insists it's just a cold, but we're worried it could be more. Could it be walking pneumonia?

Yes, it is possible that it could be walking pneumonia, but it could even just be a lingering symptom of a cold like your dad said. However, it is important to know when a cough is more than just a cough because it could actually be a more serious condition like the walking pneumonia you suggested, or chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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What are some ways that seniors can boost their immune systems against colds and the flu?

The first way that seniors can prevent a cold or flu is by making sure that they receive their flu shot. Maintaining a healthy diet, and especially vitamin C, will also help to keep a senior's immune system in top-notch condition. Combine that with regular exercise to promote circulation and heart health, as well as a regular sleeping cycle and proper hydration and an elderly adult is well on their way to helping their body prevent illness.

Finally, one last word of advice. Seniors should always consult with their doctor before adding any new supplements or vitamins to their regimen.

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