How older adults can keep secure throughout this record-breaking flu season

Man gets flu shotA man receives a flu shot at a health care facility in San Diego County. Courtesy of the County News Center

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is facing the highest flu hospitalization rates in more than a decade.

As of early December, more than 8.7 million people had the flu, 78,000 were hospitalized and 4,500 died. Older adults are currently at greatest risk, with their hospitalization rates almost double those of the general population.

Protection from the flu is even more important as COVID-19 and RSV continue to impact our communities, which is why I constantly encourage my patients to get vaccinated. I also answer some common questions about this year’s flu season – and how older adults can protect themselves from infection and serious illness.

This is what I share with my patients, friends and family:

Is it too late for the flu shot?

No, there is still time to get it. Getting your annual flu shot now is better than not getting it at all.

Is the “senior flu vaccine” really different?

High-dose flu vaccine is a type of vaccine approved for use in people 65 and older. The higher dose of antigen in the vaccine is expected to give older adults a better immune response to the vaccine and therefore better protection against influenza.

What are other ways to avoid the flu?

Besides getting vaccinated, follow these tips to avoid getting the flu this season:

  • Avoid close contact: Avoid close contact with sick people. If you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home if you are sick: Whenever possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your disease to others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Influenza viruses spread primarily through droplets produced when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or speak.
  • Clean your hands: Frequent hand washing helps protect against germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth: Germs can be spread when a person touches something contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits: Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is sick. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, stay hydrated, and eat nutritious foods.

If I have the flu, are there home remedies that will help relieve flu symptoms?

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The main way to treat flu is rest and fluids to allow the body to fight the infection on its own. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers may help with symptoms. But it’s important to remember that getting vaccinated every year can help prevent the flu and limit its complications.

When should I go to the hospital for treatment?

If you have the flu, see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in your chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness or frequent dizzy spells
  • confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Getting vaccinated and taking precautions can help keep everyone healthier during the months when the virus is most prevalent. Protect yourself and your loved ones to better enjoy the holiday season.

dr Kaveh Bahmanpour is a Family Medicine and Geriatric Specialist with Sharp Community Medical Group.

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