Four Myths Lots Of People Believe About How The Flu Affects Seniors Over 60

Daily Caring

Some of us take the flu very lightly, and there are many misconceptions about the illness going around. While the flu has been around all our lives, note that as we get older, it affects us differently, and can be quite dangerous. According to Angela Patterson, DNP, FNP-BC, chief nurse officer at MinuteClinic and VP at CVS Health, As you age, your immune system weakens, and it becomes harder to fight off illnesses, including those caused by flu-related complications.”

There are severe flu complications (like sepsis and pneumonia) which impacts older people more powerfully, usually leading to hospitalizations, says Patterson. Particularly with the ongoing pandemic. “ America’s ERs and critical care units are already stressed with caring for COVID-19 patients, and that’s likely to get worse as we head into the winter months,” she adds. Patterson emphasizes that it is essential that we all take steps to remain healthy and avoid being part of the growing number of flu cases and hospitalizations. This will also preserve health care units for coronavirus patients.

Seniors are more likely to get sick, from the “common” cold to the coronavirus contagion. People over 60 and their loved ones should realize the 4 main myths regarding the flu.Hopefully it will help seniors stay healthy and avoid contracting the illness.

Having a past history of the flu means it won’t do much damage. While most of us have had bouts with the flu at different stages of our lives and were not really affected by it, older people are affected differently. Since their immune systems start to weaken at ages over 60, most seniors who had flu-related deaths (about 70%-90%) were over 65 years old. And up to 70% of flu related hospitalizations are seniors 65 and older, the CDC explains. According to Patterson, “ Seniors 65+ are at greater risk for the flu, especially those who are immunocompromised  – cancer patients for instance – or those who have chronic health conditions.”  Older adults are more likely to have such conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obstructive pulmonary disease. Patterson points out that some have 2 or more chronic conditions at the same time. “ When you combine viruses like COVID-19 and influenza with these conditions, serious heart, circulation, and respiratory complications may develop,” she stresses.

It’s okay to skip the flu vaccine. Again, lots of us take the flu for granted, and don’t really mind not getting the flu vaccine. But Patterson emphasizes that it is vital for everyone to get vaccinated against the flu, particularly the seniors. The flu vaccine works 2 ways – it helps ward off the flu, and it lowers the odds that if you get it again, you will have a severe case. A study in 2018 showed that the flu vaccination reduced the risk of being treated in the ICU for severe flu by 82%. So don’t take the vaccine lightly, it is there for your protection.

Older people can just get the nasal spray flu vaccine. Another myth lots of us believe to be true. The CDC does not recommend seniors getting the nasal spray flu vaccine because it contains live but weakened virus, and may cause serious harm to those with weaker immune systems. The nasal spray is actually better for children and young adults with stronger immune systems.

There is only one type of flu vaccine. There are actually several, and if you are over 65 years old, there are 2 options to choose from: a high dose flu vaccine, and what is called an adjuvanted flu vaccine. Both are considered inactivated vaccines, since they do not contain live viruses.

The high dose flu vaccine has four times the amount of antigens as the regular flu shot. This prompts your body to create more antibodies against the flu. In one clinical trial, it was found out that adults over 65 who received the vaccine were 24% less likely to contract the flu as compared to those who got the regular flu shot.

The adjuvanted vaccine is a standard flu vaccine, but with an additive called MF59, which helps create a stronger immune response to the flu.

If you are 65 and older, or are caring for someone who is, don’t take the flu lightly. Protect your loved ones properly, that is why there is a vaccine. Hopefully this has enlightened you with how deadly the flu can be for seniors, and the myths involved around it.