The flu shot, also known as the influenza vaccine, is a safe and effective way to help avoid getting sick during flu season. Almost all seniors should get the flu shot because it stimulates the production of antibodies in your system and can protect you against the flu virus. In some cases, it can even save lives.
The older you get, the greater your risk for developing complications as a result of influenza. This is why almost all seniors 65 and older are advised to get the flu shot every year.
The flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can cause a wide range of symptoms – including chills, runny nose, fatigue, fever, sore throat, coughing, and so forth. While most people will notice their symptoms disappear after 1 to 2 weeks, the flu can cause life-threatening complications in certain individuals, especially in older populations.
Can You Get Sick from the Flu Shot?
The inactivated influenza vaccine will not cause you to get sick because it contains killed influenza viruses that cannot cause you to get influenza.
The most common reactions from the vaccine include soreness at injection site, headache, mild-grade fever, aching muscles, and fatigue. These symptoms should only last 1 to 2 days. They are far less severe and do not last as long as similar symptoms caused by the actual infection.
When Should Seniors Get the Flu Shot?
The best time for seniors to get the flu shot is before the start of influenza season. For the most part, the vaccine typically becomes available in October, but you can always call your healthcare provider ahead of time to see when they are expecting its arrival.
Getting the shot early on gives your body more time to get acquainted with the infection and build up an immunity against it. That way, if or when you become exposed, your body will know what to do to fight it off. In most cases, you will maintain immunity through the end of influenza season, or April of the following year.
While you can get the flu at any time of the year, there is a major peak in the number of cases in December and February.
It’s important to get the flu shot every year because different strains of the virus will go around. The flu shot varies each year to accommodate these changes.
In addition, caregivers or people who spend a lot of time around seniors are also encouraged to get the flu shot to reduce the risk of spreading infection to vulnerable populations.
Does Everyone Get the Same Flu Shot?
The flu shot is typically given in the arm, but not all flu shots are the same. There are different types of flu shots and sometimes the shot you are given will depend on your age group. For instance, there are flu shots designed specifically for seniors 65 and older. One type is Fluzone, a high-dose trivalent vaccine that’ll protect you against three different strains of the virus: influenza A [H1N1], influenza A [H3N2], and the influenza B virus.
There are other types of flu shots for seniors as well, such as Fluad. Only your doctor or other healthcare provider can suggest the best type of flu vaccine for you.
What About Other Immunizations for Seniors?
Seniors should also be immunized against pneumococcal disease. The pneumococcal vaccine protects you against infections impacting the bloodstream, brain, lungs and ears. You can get both the influenza and pneumococcal vaccine at the same time.
Is There Anyone Who Should Not Get the Flu Shot?
Don’t write off getting a flu shot without first talking to your doctor. Although, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider before getting the flu shot if:
- You have had a negative or life-threatening reaction to a dose of the influenza vaccine in the past.
- Previously you experienced red eyes, a cough, and/or sore throat after getting the flu shot.
- You developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within 8 weeks of being vaccinated for influenza in the past.
- If you are taking any medications or have a condition that lowers your immune system.