How to Prepare for the Flu Season
Aging Matters

As the fall and winter seasons approach, seniors need to take precautions to avoid the flu. It is an infectious respiratory illness that can be life-threatening, especially for individuals 65 years of age and older. As we age, our immune system weakens, and when it does, the body has trouble fighting infections and disease. The flu can affect us whether we're healthy or not.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual vaccination for everyone six months of age and older, to prevent getting the flu. In 2015, the flu shot prevented almost 58,000 hospitalizations in people 65 years of age and older.

What you need to know

  • The flu is dangerous for those living with one or more chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
  • The flu, when combined with pneumonia, is one of the top leading causes of death in the U.S. for the 65+ years of age.
  • Discuss the flu vaccine with your doctor to learn about the options. Today, a higher-dose vaccine is available for the age-linked decline of the immune system.
  • Be aware of the side effects that include soreness, pain, and swelling at the injection site. You may also feel fatigue, headache, and fever.
  • The influenza vaccination is a Medicare benefit with no copay.

Flu types

Several types of influenza exist; they are A, B, and C. The first two, A and B, cause 20% of the population sniffling, aching, coughing, and running high fevers. Type C have less severe symptoms.

  • Type A - it affects people more often than animals, but wild birds can act as hosts. This kind frequently changes and it is responsible for the large flu epidemics. The A2 virus spreads by those infected through touching surfaces that an infected person has touched and rooms where they recently visited. That's why it's important to cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing.
  • Type B flu affects humans only and cause a less severe reaction and do not cause epidemics.
  • Type C is also found in people and milder than the other two. This flu category does not cause epidemics.

Signs and Symptoms

The flu symptoms come on all of a sudden. You can have:

  • Severe aches in muscles and joints
  • Pain and tiredness around the eyes
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Warm, flushed skin and red, watery eyes
  • A headache, dry cough, sore throat, and runny nose to treat the flu

How to treat the flu

  • Rest at home.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Avoid contact with other people.
  • See your doctor.

Quick tips to remain healthy: Avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home when you are sick, cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing, clean your hands, and don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Carol Marak, aging alone advocate, columnist, speaker and editor at A former family caregiver, She earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from the USC Davis School of Gerontology and writes about personal concerns while growing older.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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