December 2, 2016

Should Seniors get the flu shot? What is the flu shot and how does it affect healthy seniors?

Influenza or the flu is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Even healthy people can get very sick with the flu and spread it to other healthy people. In Canada, thousands are hospitalized for its complications every year. The colder winters in the Okanagan and Penticton coupled with an influenza virus, can make for a long stretch of time spent indoors if a senior gets infected with the flu.

Getting vaccinated is the best way for seniors to be protected against the influenza virus. It is also the best way to protect others by reducing the spread of the virus. Healthy seniors living amongst others in retirement communities, senior living facilities or assisted livng, can be easily affected by influenza if not vaccinated. Influenza spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or having face-to-face contact. The virus can also spread when a person touches tiny droplets from a cough or sneeze on another person or object and then touches their eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands. The vaccine causes antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after it is administered to the patient. And these antibodies provide protection against infection.

Influenza season is generally from November until April and therefore vaccinations start becoming available in October.

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older gets an influenza vaccine, with some rare exceptions. Seniors 65 years and above, very young children, and people who have lung or heart diseases, certain chronic health conditions, or weakened immune systems are at high risk for serious flu complications. However, before getting the flu shot, all seniors should consult with their physician first.

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