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How a Flu Shot Can Protect Seniors Against More than Just the Flu

The single best protection against seasonal influenza is getting a flu shot. Flu season can begin as early as October and last well into the spring, as far as May depending on the severity of the flu that season. Millions of Americans suffer through a bout of this viral infection every season, but making the visit to your doctor or local pharmacy to receive a flu shot can greatly reduce your chances of getting sick. Elderly persons who already have compromised immune systems are especially at risk of becoming ill and potentially developing additional medical problems as a result of the flu virus. A flu shot is a crucial step in helping seniors keep the flu at bay as well as the multitude of complications that can occur as a result of this virus.

Influenza (commonly called the flu) is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can cause illness ranging from mild to severe symptoms. It affects the lungs, nose and throat and is easily spread to others through the transfer of droplets when we sneeze, cough or even talk. Symptoms can include extreme fatigue, fever or headaches, a sore throat, cough, muscle aches or even vomiting and/or diarrhea. While these maladies may seem innocuous enough, complications from the flu can lead to serious problems especially for persons (like those over age 65) who are in high-risk categories. Bacterial pneumonia, sinus infections and dehydration can develop due to the flu virus, and even more serious is the threat of chronic medical conditions worsening (diabetes or congestive heart failure).

Older Americans are at an increased risk of serious complications because their immune systems are generally weaker. This is a result of the natural aging process that causes our immune defenses to deteriorate over time. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that between 71% and 85% of flu-related deaths in recent years were people age 65 and older. Hospitalizations for flu complications in this age group were also over 50%. So while a younger, generally healthy person may be able to withstand contracting influenza with nothing more than a few missed days of work, the stakes are much higher for seniors, especially if they already have other medical conditions.

Staying current with all vaccinations recommended for seniors, managing chronic health conditions and adopting healthy habits can go a long way to keeping the flu at bay or ensuring the symptoms are short-lived and do not lead to further problems. It is also recommended that persons 65 years and older remain current with the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine protects against meningitis and pneumonia; pneumococcal pneumonia is one example of a serious flu-related complication that can lead to death.

It is suggested that persons receive a flu shot by the end of October. It will take two weeks after vaccination for the antibodies that protect against the flu to develop in your body. The flu season will peak between December and February, so you can still receive a flu shot throughout the winter months. Receiving the shot earlier is recommended, especially for seniors and others in high-risk categories.

The nursing staff at Heritage Health takes protecting residents from the flu very seriously. Yearly vaccinations for the flu are standard practice for residents and staff, and visitors are asked not to come into the facilities if they are experiencing any kind of illness. Because the flu is so easily transmitted if you think you may have been exposed to a sick person (you can be infected before you begin to show symptoms), wear a mask to cover your nose and mouth. This can help stop the spread of droplets that could pass the virus along to other persons. Take the first step in protecting yourself and your elderly loved one by making time to receive your flu shot – it could make all the difference in your health this winter season.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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Heritage Operations Group is proud to provide the senior population in Illinois with rehabilitative therapy services, skilled nursing care, specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care, assisted and supportive living, independent living and pharmacy services.


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