As with any medical treatment, the advantages and disadvantages of getting a flu shot should be discussed with a senior’s health care provider on an individual basis before making a final decision. Although a few studies do indicate flu shots do not offer effective flu protection for some of the senior population, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recommend flu shots for seniors. The CDC believes the majority of seniors will be safer with the flu shot. However, there are some important considerations regarding the type of flu shot best able to protect your parent.
While the CDC acknowledges the standard flu shot may be less effective in seniors, because of the increased dangers faced by seniors who contract the flu, the CDC still recommends it. According to CDC data, 90 percent of deaths caused by the flu happen in the senior population. Preexisting respiratory conditions can result in the flu having a more severe impact, increasing the chance of hospitalization. In fact, more than 60 percent of those hospitalized for the flu each year are senior citizens.
Seniors are more likely to have weaker or impaired immune system function, making it more difficult for them to successfully fight the flu virus. That contributes to an increased risk of developing pneumonia after contracting the flu. Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death in the senior population so that’s not a concern to be taken lightly. When the elderly are hospitalized for the flu, that hospitalization can increase stress on the immune system by raising their risk of exposure to opportunistic drug-resistant bacteria.
Medical researchers have been working to improve flu shot options for seniors. This year, aging individuals living in assisted living in OKC can choose between the standard flu shot, a high-dose version of the shot and a flu vaccine offering protection from four types of flu instead of the usual three. With four times the usual number of antigens, the high-dose flu shot can significantly increase the body’s production of antibodies, leading to better flu protection. This can be an important boost for seniors with weakened immune system function. According to the CDC, early studies have been positive, showing the high-dose flu shot to be 24.2 percent more effective than the standard flu shot in protecting seniors from the flu.
Even with the flu shot, the CDC recommends further decreasing flu risk by regular hand washing, avoiding contact with those exhibiting flu symptoms and healthier lifestyle choices. Important changes may include avoiding smoking and second-hand smoke, getting plenty of rest and improving the daily diet. A healthy, nutrient rich diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can strengthen immune function, helping to reduce flu risk. Contact us for more information on how best to protect a senior living in Oklahoma City from the contracting the flu.