8 things to know about the influenza vaccine

Take care of yourself by getting your flu shot!

Winter is coming. That means shorter days, snow (we hope!), and holiday cheer. It also, unfortunately, means flu season.

It’s no secret that influenza (the real “flu,” not what many people call “the flu,” which is just a bad cold) affects seniors more seriously than other groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people 65 and older account for as many as 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and up to 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations. Notice the statistic if for “flu-related” incidents. That’s because even if an older person survives the flu, they are more likely to contract secondary infections and complications. That’s the CDC and other medical authorities urge seniors to get their flu shots.

Here are some things to know about the influenza vaccine:

  1. The flu vaccine is 70 to 90 percent effective. That means some people will contract the flu, even if they’ve been vaccinated. But those are good odds.
  2. A “high dose” flu shot is available to seniors. This vaccine contains four times the antigens and is 24% more effective on those 65 years and older, according to the CDC.
  3. Some people will experience mild side effects like soreness, redness/swelling at the injection site, general aches or a low-grade fever. Only about 1 to 2 percent of flu shot recipients will experience a fever.
  4. More serious side effects are rare and may result from allergic reactions to the vaccine. Since Bridgewater has medical staff available around the clock, please let one of them know if you experience an adverse reaction.
  5. You cannot get the flu from the vaccine. This is a myth that likely results from so many people catching colds in the winter time, sometimes soon after receiving the shot.
  6. The best time to get the flu shot is mid to late October. While pharmacies and doctors are promoting the flu shots as early as August, their effectiveness will wear off during peak flu season if you get the shot too early. Depending on when you get your shot and your health condition, you should consider a booster in January.
  7. As always, you can boost your health during flu and cold season by practicing healthy winter hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Wash hands often. And avoid people who are sick. (Sometimes, that’s hard, especially since grandchildren are so often sick during the winter months!)
  8. A proper diet and plenty of sleep are excellent preventions, as well.

But most of all, make sure you are properly vaccinated.