Flu Shot MythBusters
Yes, the elderly should get a flu shot!
For older adults, caregivers and other high-risk individuals, the influenza vaccine is the best way to keep the flu bug from biting. Flu and the elderly are a dangerous combination. Complications from the flu in the elderly can be life-threatening.
Learn the facts from the myths about the flu vaccine and protect you and your loved ones this season. Not getting the flu is better than getting over the flu!
FLU SHOT FACTS VS. MYTHS
Myth #1: If I get the flu vaccine too early it won’t protect for the whole flu season. I could catch the flu before the end of winter.
FACT: The flu shot is effective for one full year from the time you receive it. Making plans to be vaccinated early each year can help protect you in years like this one when the flu makes the rounds early. Even if you haven’t already gotten your shot, IT’S NOT TOO LATE. You can protect yourself through the end of the season…and that’s been known to go into July!
Myth #2: The flu shot will make me get the flu.
FACT: This is probably the most popular myth about the vaccine. It is one reason seniors often refuse to be vaccinated. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the viruses in the flu shot are not live viruses. They cannot cause someone who gets a flu shot to become sick. However, if you already have the flu virus in your system, the vaccine won’t kill it and you will probably still get sick, but hopefully not as severely. The vaccine takes about 2 weeks to provide immunity.
Myth #3: You really don’t need the flu vaccine every year.
FACT: Unlike mumps or measles vaccines that you only need once, the flu shot is an annual vaccine. Unfortunately, the vaccine must change every year to target strains of the viruses that are predicted to be part of the current year’s flu season. The flu is quite the adaptive virus!
Myth #4: If you don’t have any flu symptoms, you can’t spread the virus.
FACT: This persistent myth can be dangerous for older adults. If their loved ones and caregivers aren’t vaccinated, they may unknowingly spread the virus around. Experts from Harvard estimate that between 20% and 30% of people who carry the influenza virus don’t have any noticeable flu-like symptoms.
Myth #5: Medicare requires an elderly flu shot be given at the doctor’s office.
FACT: Medicare covers one flu shot per year. You do not need a physician order for Medicare to cover the vaccine and it can be given by any health care provider who accepts Medicare, helping make the shot more accessible for seniors. You can receive it at your local pharmacy, grocery store or senior center in most communities. Most private insurers also pay for the flu shot.
Who shouldn’t receive the influenza vaccine?
Anyone who has had an adverse reaction to the vaccine in the past should not receive it. The CDC also advises “people with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine.” It is always a good idea to check with your physician if you have any unusual allergies or have any doubts about getting the vaccine.
Flu Prevention Tips
Prevention really is the best medicine when it comes to the flu! Even if you have had the vaccine, you still should take every precaution to avoid coming into contact with the virus. Some strains may not respond to this year’s vaccine or you may still get a milder case of the flu.
Good hygiene will always be the first way to prevent against the flu – and other illnesses and infections.
- Wash your hands well, and often! It is especially important to wash yours hand with warm water and soap after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing or caring for an ill person. Be sure to get under your fingernails!
- You know you should cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, but please do it the right way! The best way is to use a tissue and dispose of it promptly and properly. However, if you don’t have a tissue, the next best alternative is into your elbow – NOT YOUR HANDS. You aren’t as likely to touch a surface and spread the germs from your elbow!
- Wash and bandage all cuts. This helps remove germs before they can enter your system and prevents new germs from entering your body through the wound.
- Don’t share dishes, glasses, eating utensils or makeup. Germs can linger on these items for longer than you think and are easily transferred.
So, you have a cough, sore throat, aching muscles and a fever…now what? You probably have the flu, but your doctor or urgent care can administer a flu test to be sure. If caught early enough, you may be prescribed anti-viral medication to lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of your illness. Unfortunately, antibiotics won’t help; time is really the best healer. Drink a lot of fluids, take fever reducing medication (be sure this is approved by your doctor) and REST. If you don’t feel like you are getting better over the course of a few days – or your symptoms worsen – seek medical care immediately.