Flu season is still underway and it’s important to protect yourself and your loved ones. While influenza can have severe health consequences for anyone, adults 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions are especially vulnerable. Nationally, up to 70% of flu hospitalizations have occurred in patients over 65. Because the immune system naturally weakens with age and older adults don’t always develop the same level of immunity through vaccination as younger people, they may benefit from the additional protection of having those they are in regular, close contact also be vaccinated. As for those living with underlying health conditions like chronic lung disease, diabetes and chronic heart disease, flu illness can become severe, while also making chronic disease management more difficult.
According to advocates, here’s how everyone can do their part to help protect those who are at high risk for severe influenza complications:
- Get vaccinated: The best way to protect against flu and its potentially serious complications is with a flu vaccine. Flu vaccinations have been in use for more than 50 years, with hundreds of millions of Americans safely receiving them. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year. Vaccination is particularly important for vulnerable individuals and those with whom they spend time, including family members, caregivers, and those who work in long-term care settings.
- Take everyday preventive actions: To further reduce the spread of illness, take everyday precautions. Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth and always cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or your elbow. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
For additional guidance, refer to the “Caregiver Flu Toolkit” from the Lung Association and Anthem Foundation, a comprehensive guide to educate caregivers of adults 65 and over about flu and the importance of vaccination to help protect them from contracting the flu. The free downloadable guide is available at Lung.org/Fend-Off-Flu.
While flu vaccination and other preventive measures are important every year, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially essential to take steps to protect those who are most vulnerable.