For many elderly patients, December is an exciting time. The month’s arrival brings the holiday season and opportunities to spend more time with family, friends, and loved ones.
However, according to the CDC, December also marks the beginning of the flu season, a period of time when the influenza virus is most common. During the flu season, the elderly have an increased risk of contracting influenza and suffering from complications, which can grow more severe with age.
Fortunately, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the influenza virus through vaccination. In this post, we’ll celebrate National Influenza Vaccination Week by exploring the benefits of annual flu vaccination.
What is Influenza?
Influenza is a contagious disease that’s caused and spread by influenza viruses. When contracted, symptoms of infection can vary, but generally include a sore throat, respiratory congestion, fever, muscle soreness, headaches, fatigue, and coughing. Sometimes, young people affected by influenza can experience vomiting and diarrhea, although these symptoms are less common in adults.
Although active influenza infections only last about a week in healthy adults, influenza in the elderly can be much more severe, which is why we are in support of National Influenza Vaccination Week. When contracted by elderly patients and those with compromised health, the flu virus can seriously jeopardize one’s immune system and lead to infections, pneumonia, hospitalization, and even death.
Why is Influenza Vaccination Important for the Elderly?
Every year, the CDC promotes annual immunization with their National Influenza Vaccination Week awareness campaign. Because the influenza virus has a high mutation rate, each influenza vaccination only offers protection for a few years. As a result, getting a reformulated influenza vaccination each year offers seniors the strongest, most reliable protection against the virus. In fact, research has confirmed that receiving annual influenza vaccinations is more effective than hand washing, wearing surgical masks, or other protective measures.
While there are some potential side effects of influenza vaccination, an important message shared during National Influenza Vaccination Week is that the upsides to receiving a flu shot far outweigh the downsides. Upon receiving a flu vaccination, the most common side effects that elderly patients might experience are swelling and soreness at the injection site. Others might experience temporary flu symptoms, however, as the immune system reacts to the inactive virus. In this case, symptoms can include headaches, fever, fatigue, and sore muscles.
Although rare, the most severe response to flu vaccination is an allergic reaction to the virus material or manufacturing residues.
Where Can I Get Vaccinated for Influenza in the Elderly?
If you or your loved ones live in the United States, you can use the CDC’s Flu Vaccine Finder to find a vaccine clinic near you. Although the National Influenza Vaccination Week awareness campaign recommends that seniors receive a flu vaccination before the end of October, it’s never too late to protect yourself and your loved ones by vaccinating as soon as possible.
Aside from vaccination, staying warm and receiving attentive care from compassionate caregivers is one of the best gifts you can give your elderly loved ones this winter season. To learn more about our professional caregiving services, be sure to contact us today!