Older adults are at a higher risk for severe complications from both the flu and COVID-19. While it’s recommended that everyone over 6 months old gets the flu vaccine, it’s an especially good idea for those ages 65 and older.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the last 10 years, 347,000 people died from the flu in the United States. It’s estimated that between 70% and 85% of flu-related deaths occur in people 65 and older. Between 50% and 70% of hospitalizations for flu are for people 65 and older.
And with COVID-19, it’s also important to get vaccinated against that disease. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age. To stay safe, older adults should get all their recommended vaccine and booster doses to protect their health.
Influenza shares symptoms with the common cold. Both illnesses often include a cough, sore throat and runny nose. The flu can be much more severe than colds, particularly among those ages 65 and older.
While the flu varies in severity, the CDC lists the following symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
The good news is that the influenza vaccine reduces your likelihood of getting the flu. Even if you do get sick, getting vaccinated can help lessen the severity of your illness. The vaccine reduces the risk of flu-related hospitalization for people of all ages. For people with chronic health conditions, it’s an especially important preventive tool.
Seniors at greatest risk
Seniors are at a higher risk for flu-related complications. They should prioritize getting vaccinated to stay safe and healthy.
Flu season starts in October and lasts through May. Typically, influenza levels rise in the fall in the U.S. and peak between December and February. It’s recommended that everyone eligible for a flu vaccine get vaccinated by the end of October. However, getting it later than that is much better than not getting vaccinated at all.
With the flu and COVID-19 being two different diseases, getting vaccinated for each is recommended. People over 65 years old should talk to their primary care providers about their options. They may be eligible for a high-dose flu vaccine and extra doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
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