It’s no joke that there are all sorts of confusing and sometimes conflicting health information going around these days, not just in Manchester but elsewhere as well. It can be a real challenge to make sense of it all, whether you’re in good health or receiving end-of-life care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice are familiar with what you’re feeling and concerned about. As a home health care agency, we work with patients throughout the region with a variety of health conditions and varying amounts of access to reliable health information. We also try our hardest to keep up with health protocols and current research to make sure our people offer proper information and proper care to our clients and to themselves. We don’t provide medical advice, but will be happy to share what we know about trends and public health challenges, or contact their provider/medical team to relay info.
One of the vital things we’ve learned this year is the importance of our clients getting a flu vaccine. This is generally good advice in any year, but this year it is recommended even more than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This information comes courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Although some of the agency’s COVID-related communications have become politicized, there doesn’t seem to be any disagreements or controversy from the CDC over the value of flu shots especially for those 65 or older.
Part of the reason is that this age group is particularly susceptible to not just catching the flu, but contracting serious versions of it, taking a long time to recover, and then often having other infections afterward, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections, and sinus infections.
Because many seniors already have weaker immune systems, they are more likely to need hospitalization or more likely to die from the flu than other age groups. Hospitalization also can lead to further complications and exposure to other threats to their immune systems.
That’s a big part of the urgency this year due to the continuing spread of the COVID virus. COVID is also is more likely to affect seniors than younger people, and if they get it, they’re more likely to experience more serious symptoms. Also, post-COVID effects may include other short-term and long-term health problems, such as respiratory infections. Many of people who do contract COVID do recover but there is also a higher chance of death for seniors.
So generally, with not one but with two viruses that could dramatically affect the current and future health of seniors, getting a flu shot can be a smart idea.
About flu vaccines
The flu vaccine is designed to increase the production of antibodies that can resist the current flu if you become infected. Each year, new vaccines are developed for current strains, since it’s always evolving, so last year’s vaccine may not be effective.
The vaccine won’t block the flu entirely but can minimize the risk of contracting it. If you do contract it, the vaccine can also mean you won’t have as many symptoms or complications and likely recover faster, all good things.
Healthline, an online health resource, said different age groups can be given different types of vaccines.
Seniors are typically recommended the “high-dose trivalent” vaccine called Fluzone, which has been designed to protect against influenza A (H1N1 strain), influenza A (H3N2) strain and influenza B. Another variation is FLUAD, which has a smaller dose but includes an ingredient called an adjuvant that is also designed to increase the body’s immune response.
Although some years the vaccine is given through a nasal puff, this year the preferred method for greater effectiveness is an injection. This may cause some minor pain and a few small flu-like conditions for a few days in some. (The vaccine actually includes inert items from the previous year’s flu).
Before getting one, people are encouraged to discuss flu vaccines with their health care providers. He or she can provide accurate and current information about the vaccine and why it’s important to get it every year. A provider also will be familiar with a patient’s medical history and may recommend certain types of vaccinations over others.
Other information can be found at the CDC’s Flu section. The agency offers resources for all ages and health conditions. December 6-12 is also considered National Influenza Vaccination Week, an opportunity to learn more about the process of vaccines and why they’re important.
Even if you do get the recommended flu vaccination, you should still practice good personal hygiene habits. This helps reduce the risk of you being infected. Many of the recommended practices for trying to avoid COVID also apply to avoiding the flu. This includes coughing into your sleeve or a tissue, staying at home if you’re not feeling well, avoiding large gatherings, or wearing a mask around others when social distancing can’t be practiced. Regular handwashing with soap, or if it’s not available sanitizer, can also be effective in removing harmful infections.
Visit National Handwashing Week which runs Dec. 1-7 to learn more about how, and how long, to wash properly to minimize infection risks.