In Australia, two-and-a-half times more flu cases have been reported this year compared to last year. Even though Australia is far away, the Northern Hemisphere tends to follow the same patterns as the Southern Hemisphere. If this holds true, it means that this year’s flu season may be severe.
Though we can’t stop flu season from coming, we can be prepared. This is especially important for older adults who are at a higher risk for flu complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia and dehydration.
Let’s discuss the best ways to get you and your loved ones ready for flu season.
Getting the Flu Shot
Your best line of defense is a flu shot. The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for adults 65 years and older, and has since the 1960s. The vaccine does not contain a live virus, so you cannot get sick from it. There are some mild side effects such as muscle aches, headaches and soreness at the injection site. In addition to adults 65 and older, the following people should get a flu shot:
- Anyone at risk for developing flu complications
- Anyone in contact with high risk individuals, such as caregivers
- Anyone with compromised immune systems
Effectiveness of the Flu Shot
The flu shot is not perfect. It is effective about 40-60% of the time depending on the individual, their age, their current health and the types of viruses at the time. The flu shot is also most effective in healthy adults because seniors have declining immune systems. This puts them at a greater risk for developing the flu, even with the vaccine.
The best case for getting the flu vaccine is that it reduces the severity of the flu. For example, one study found that the flu shot reduced the risk of hospitalization in more than 50% of seniors.
For the vaccine to work best, it should be administered before the end of October. Only the flu injection is recommended, and there are a couple of options available, including the standard shot, a high dose shot and an adjuvant vaccine. Be sure to ask your doctor which is best.
Beyond the Vaccine
Remind yourself and your loved ones of the steps they can take to protect themselves from colds and flues this season. A little prevention goes a long way in protecting ourselves and our communities.
- Avoid close contact with those who are sick
- Stay home when you are sick
- Keep your kids home from school when they’re sick
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
- Use alcohol-based hand rubs if soap/water is not available
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes
- Clean and disinfect surfaces