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Flu and Other Shots for Elders

Posted Oct 13 2011 8:30am

category_bug_journal2.gif As you know, I was down for a week or so last month with a flu. Well, that wasn't a professional diagnoses - just my own based on aches, pains, a low-grade fever and feeling amazingly rotten.

After allowing a couple more weeks for complete recovery, a few days ago I hied myself off to my local pharmacy for the annual flu shot. It is covered my Medicare and just as I was thinking about posting a flu shot reminder to all of you who read TGB, a remarkably succinct and useful Tipsheet [pdf] on vaccines arrived via email from The American Geriatrics Society.

The Centers for Disease Control recommend that almost everyone age 65 and older get an annual flu shot. It saves thousands of hospitalizations and deaths and is especially important for those who live in a nursing home and have serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, lung disease or HIV because they are at higher risk of experiencing serious, flu-related complications.

This year's flu shot protects against the three strains of the influenza virus that are most common worldwide including the 2009 H1N1 virus. There are three choices of how the shot is delivered:

  1. The regular shot delivered into muscle
  2. Regular shot delivered with a smaller needle under the skin instead of muscle still providing the same degree of protection
  3. A new, high-dose shot especially for people 65 and older that may provide a stronger immune response

It is not yet known if that third option results if greater protection, but “it is more likely to cause pain, redness and swelling at the injection site and mild, but temporary headache, muscle aches, fever and discomfort.” (I know that sounds remarkably like the flu but no, it is not possible to get the flu from a flu shot.)

Whichever you (or your physician) choose, be sure to get your shot soon so you are protected during the high flu season in January and February.

There are some people who should not take the annual shot: “People who are allergic to eggs, have had allergic reactions to flu shots in the past, or have been diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome.”

The Tipshit Tipsheet also contains information on other vaccines you may want to discuss with your physician – pneumococcal that protects against pneumococcal bacteria, Tdap and shingles.

Most of you probably know all this, but I would be remiss in not mentioning one of the most successful and easiest illness preventions we have.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: The Cat Who Loved Cosmo

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