What Seniors Can Do to Fight the Flu

influenza hits older people harder than most. Here’s how to prepare for the virus

Eau Claire City-County Health Department

Hospital-reported data has shown for many years that people 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu compared to younger, healthy adults. The human immune defenses naturally become weaker as we age. While flu seasons can vary in severity, during most seasons, people 65 years and older suffer the greatest from influenza. In recent years, for example, it’s estimated that between 71 to 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older. Between 54 and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations are associated with this age group.

If you are 65 years of age or older, here are four actions you should take this flu season:

1. Get your flu shot. The best way to prevent the flu is with a flu shot. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October if possible. An annual flu shot is recommended because the shot is updated each season to protect against the flu viruses that research indicates will be most common. The 2016-17 vaccine has been updated from last season’s vaccine to better match circulating viruses.

2. Practice good health habits. Cover coughs, wash your hands often, and avoid people who are sick. Eat healthy, exercise, and drink plenty of fluids.

3. Seek medical advice quickly if you develop flu symptoms. It is important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with influenza, especially those who have a greater chance of serious flu complications. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

4. Get pneumococcal vaccines. People who are 65 years and older should also be up to date with pneumococcal vaccination to protect against pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections. Pneumococcal pneumonia is an example of a serious flu-related complication. Talk to your doctor to find out which pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for you. You can get the pneumococcal vaccine your provider recommends when you get the flu vaccine.

For detailed information on preventing and treating the flu, visit www.flu.gov.