As we enter fall and winter months, flu season reemerges. Each year, the CDC highlights that millions of people in the U.S. are afflicted by the flu, with older adults often being more susceptible. Given the heightened risk of older adults in senior living communities, it’s a good idea to be especially cautious during these months. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to bolster your defenses against the flu.
What to Expect During Flu Season
The flu is a rapidly spreading respiratory virus with sudden onset. After exposure, signs like body pains, fever, and coughing usually appear within one to four days and can persist for several days up to two weeks. When infected with the flu, individuals may experience some or all of these symptoms:
- fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle or body aches
- fatigue (tiredness)
*It’s important to note that not everyone with the flu will have a fever.
If you're experiencing any of the above symptoms or have health concerns related to the flu or any other conditions, contact your primary care provider and community health staff. Timely intervention can prevent complications and increase chances of a swift recovery.
Specialized Vaccines for Older Adults
Similar to previous years, the CDC has highlighted the particular vulnerability of adults 65 and older during the flu season. This is because our bodies undergo several changes with age, and one such significant change pertains to the immune system. It might not respond as well to standard vaccinations as in younger individuals. Therefore, the high-dose and adjuvanted flu vaccines are designed to offer enhanced protection, countering the age-induced immune shifts.
The primary flu vaccine options include:
- Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent: Designed for those 65 and above, this inactivated vaccine has an antigen concentration four times higher than standard vaccines.
- Fluad Quadrivalent: Another option for the 65 and older group, it's enriched with an adjuvant to boost the immune response.
- Flublok Quadrivalent: For those 18 and up, this unique vaccine is categorized as a recombinant protein vaccine.
While you're arranging for your flu vaccine, consider verifying if you qualify for the new COVID-19 booster. Additionally, you might qualify for the latest RSV vaccination.
Staying Healthy and Safe in Your Community
Senior living communities offer lots of benefits, from social interactions to specialized care. However, shared spaces and group activities in any environment can lead to increased exposure to pathogens, including the flu virus. In addition to getting vaccinated, here are some tips specifically for adults in senior living communities to minimize their risk of contracting the flu and other respiratory illnesses:
- Practice Good Hand Hygiene: Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Maintain Distance: During peak flu season, consider keeping a safe distance from others, especially from those showing symptoms.
- Wear a Mask: In areas where there's a higher risk of transmission, wearing a mask can provide an added layer of protection.
- Eat Healthily and Stay Hydrated: A strong immune system can help fend off infections better. Consume a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and drink plenty of water.
- Limit Visitors: If possible, limit visitors during the peak flu season, especially those who might be sick or have been exposed to sick individuals.
- Stay Informed: Regularly communicate with community health staff or administrators about any potential flu outbreaks and follow their guidelines and recommendations.
- Promptly Report Symptoms: If you or a neighbor starts feeling unwell, report the symptoms immediately. Early detection and treatment can reduce the severity and spread of the flu.
Throughout the flu season, it’s also important to stay in touch with your primary care team. Whether you’re a Pine Park Health patient or have another primary care provider, your care team should guide you on preventive measures and offer you personalized advice for your specific health needs and conditions. Regular check-ins, promptly addressing concerns, and actively seeking their recommendations can make all the difference in navigating this flu season.