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Seniors and the flu

While everyone should take the necessary steps to avoid getting or spreading the flu, several groups need to be extra cautious.

Diabetics, asthmatics, pregnant women, and older adults should be more aware of their risks for and consequences from getting the flu. They should take extra precautions to keep safe. These four groups are more likely to become seriously ill from the flu. And being seriously ill from the flu may lead to other negative outcomes such as bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus and ear infections, hospitalizations, and more.


As we age, our immune system generally gets weaker and we become more susceptible to illness. This is especially important to remember during flu season!

Statistics indicate that adults 65 years old and older account for 50 to 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations and they account for an estimated 80 to 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths. So it’s easy to see this group should take extra care to keep safe from the flu. Getting the flu vaccine is the most important step when it comes to preventing the flu, especially since the flu vaccine is safe for anyone from 2 to 100 years old.

The nasal spray vaccine is not approved for use in people 49 years old and older. So this group has two options, a regular or a high dose vaccine. The high dose vaccine contains about four times the inactivated virus, which triggers a greater immune response. This response results in the formation of more antibodies to fight against the virus. More antibodies may mean a lower chance of getting the flu along with greater protection against getting seriously ill from it.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not stated which type — regular or high dose vaccine — is preferred. But the CDC does state that everyone 6 months old and older should get a seasonal flu vaccine every year. The CDC encourages everyone to get the vaccine soon after it becomes available, by October if possible.

In addition to getting the flu shot, you can also help prevent spreading the flu by:

  • Staying home when you are sick, except to get to the doctor.
  • Staying away from other people who are sick, if possible.
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at home and work, especially when someone is ill.
  • Using a tissue or your elbow or shoulder — not your bare hands — to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Washing your hands with soap and water often, especially after coughing or sneezing.

If you experience flu-like symptoms and are part of a group that is at high risk for developing complications, call your doctor right away to determine if you need any extra treatment.