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5 reasons older adults need the flu shot

Adults over the age of 65 are at higher risk for flu complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70 to 85 percent of people who die from the seasonal flu are over the age of 65.

"One of the biggest myths I hear from seniors is that they don't need the flu shot each year," says Barbara Austin, RN, MN, a nurse and complex case manager at Piedmont Sixty Plus. "You need to get vaccinated every year. The flu virus strains change from year to year. The shot you get this year is the best estimate of protection against this year's strains."

If you are 65 or older, here are five reasons to get the flu shot.

1. Your immune system declines with age.

"As you age, your immune system weakens," says Austin. "This makes older adults much more susceptible to the flu."

When you see your physician for an annual flu shot, it is a good time to ask if you are up to date with your vaccinations, such as the shingles, pertussis (whooping cough) and pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccines.

2. The flu kills more older adults than it does any other age group.

The statistics are scary: 70 to 85 percent of people who die from the seasonal flu are 65 or older, and more than 54 to 70 percent of flu-related hospitalizations are in this age group. Do not put yourself at risk this flu season, which runs from October to May. Get vaccinated so you are not a statistic.

3. You will protect your loved ones.

Not only will the vaccine reduce your chances of catching the flu, you will also decrease your risk of spreading it to your family, friends and other people with whom you come in contact. Learn more about protecting others from the flu

4. There is a special vaccine for older adults.

Adults 65+ have two flu shot options:

  • The regular dose flu shot

  •  The high-dose version, which was created especially for older adults

Ask your doctor what is right for you.

5. It is affordable and accessible.

Medicare Part B covers the flu vaccine. If you are not covered, many local clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and places of worship offer the flu shot at a reduced cost.

"The flu shot is a low-cost, accessible preventive measure older adults can take to protect their health this flu season," says Austin. "It doesn't cost a lot, it's easy to do and if you do get sick, your symptoms will likely be milder."

What to do if you have flu-like symptoms

If you experience flu-like symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Older adults are at risk for severe complications and the sooner you receive treatment, such as antiviral medications, the better your chance of a smooth recovery.

Flu shots are available at Piedmont’s urgent care locations, primary care offices and Piedmont QuickCare at Walgreens locations.   

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