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Seniors: Get Your Flu Shot
Winter is upon us, which unfortunately means flu season is, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 53,000 people have already been hospitalized by the flu this season, and nearly 3,000 people have died. But the worst is likely to come, as the virus typically peaks between December and March.
The flu is a serious virus for everyone, but especially for older adults. Because your immune system weakens as you age, seniors are at a high risk of major complications and hospitalization. In fact, those 65 years and older are six times more likely to die from flu and related complications. The best way to lower your risk is by getting your flu shot.
What is the Flu?
Influenza (often referred to as flu) is a common contagious respiratory illness that infects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs (via CDC). It causes inflammation in the body, which for seniors, can worsen underlying health conditions such as lung disease or diabetes.
What are the Symptoms?
The flu can have many different symptoms, which vary in severity. These symptoms often come on suddenly. You may have a few or all of these symptoms:
- Feeling feverish/having chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Feeling overly tired
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
How Does it Spread?
Like COVID-19, the flu is highly contagious and easily passed from person to person when someone sneezes, coughs, or speaks. While less common, you could even get the flu by touching a surface that someone with the flu touched, coughed on, or sneezed on.
What Can I Do?
There are a few ways to help stop the spread of the flu and protect yourself from severe illness and hospitalization.
- Wear a mask, especially when visiting highly frequented public places like the grocery store. It’s best to wear a mask when around visitors and other seniors. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds every time you touch a public surface, cough, sneeze, blow your nose, or use the bathroom. According to the CDC, community handwashing education reduces respiratory illnesses like the common cold, pneumonia, and the flu, by 16 to 20%. Knowing when and how to properly wash your hands can make a difference in keeping you healthy.
- Get your flu shot. Above all else, the best way to protect yourself from the flu is by getting vaccinated against it. You should get a flu shot annually, as the virus strains constantly change year to year. Flu shots are almost always free and available at your local pharmacy or doctor’s office. To find where you can get your flu shot, visit vaccine.gov.