If you’re age 50 or older, have you had your flu shot yet?
It’s that time of year when cold weather brings people together indoors, increasing the chance of spreading the influenza (flu) virus. Flu season runs from November to April, and October to November is the recommended vaccination time (although you can be vaccinated after November).
Because flu viruses change each year, you need to get a new flu shot each year. Once you get the shot, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to reach its maximum effectiveness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and about 36,000 people die from flu each year in the U.S.
The risk of developing severe symptoms and complications is higher for adults age 65 and older, and about 90 percent of the deaths caused by flu occur in this age group. Older adults are at higher risk for complications because their immune systems are less effective in fighting off infections. Many also have underlying health problems that may make it harder to fight off the flu.
Because nearly one-third of people ages 50 to 64 have one or more medical conditions that place them at increased risk for serious flu complications, the flu vaccination also is recommended for this age group.
For older people and those with chronic illness, a flu shot may not necessarily prevent the flu, but can reduce the symptoms and risk of complications if they do get sick.
Flu symptoms include inflammation of the nose, throat, and eyes; fever, cough, headache, muscle aches, and generalized weakness. While most people recover within a week or so, older adults and people with chronic health problems are more likely to develop serious complications. If symptoms worsen (fever persists, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a cough that produces thick phlegm), you should seek medical attention.
Tips to Avoid the Flu
Flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu and related complications. The CDC strongly recommends that high-risk persons—including all people ages 50 and older—be vaccinated by November. If this is not possible, you can continue to seek the flu vaccine in December or later if necessary.
CDC primary target groups for annual flu vaccination
Other tips to prevent the flu include:
Treating the Flu
To help relieve flu symptoms:
For more information, visit www.columbia-stmarys.org.