Fall is here, and it’s time to start planning for flu season! Paradigm has compiled information to help you understand the risk of flu and how to protect your family.
Understanding the Illness
Flu symptoms are caused by influenza viruses which infect a person’s nose, throat, and lungs. Infected people often experience respiratory symptoms such as cough and sore throat, as well as fever and muscle or body aches. Secondary ear and sinus infections are common. And some populations are at high risk for more serious complications, including pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues, and even multi-organ failure.
Severe Risks for Older Adults and People with Existing Conditions
Elderly people and anyone living with a chronic medical condition are at much greater risk of developing serious complications after being exposed to seasonal flu. Our immune defenses weaken with age, so older people are at greater risk of severe illness from influenza. Patients living with chronic illness are also vulnerable. Even those who manage their disease with home health care and healthy habits may experience serious complications if their immune systems become compromised by a flu infection. And anyone recovering from recent surgery or an acute illness should take extra care to prevent flu exposure. Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Flu Shots are the Best Protection
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. The flu shot cannot make you sick. There are safe vaccine options for everyone, including patients who are over 65, people living with existing medical conditions, and even those who are allergic to eggs or unable to tolerate preservatives. Hospice and palliative care patients need flu vaccines, perhaps more than any other group of people. And anyone over 65 years of age should consider a high dose vaccine shot or a shot with adjuvants for greater protection against the flu.
Flu vaccines can reduce the severity of other seasonal illnesses, too. Flu shots are important to protect against flu related hospitalization and death. This is especially true for older adults and anyone living with a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc.
Caregivers and family members should also get flu shots to prevent exposing loved ones to the illness. It’s important for anyone coming in close contact with patients who are vulnerable due to age or other health concerns to get vaccinated.
When to Vaccinate
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body, so get vaccinated early in fall (starting now!). CDC recommends that everyone gets a flu vaccine by the end of October.
If you miss this deadline, you should still a flu shot. Peak flu activity occurs from December through February. And flu season lasts into May, so vaccination is beneficial even in later months.
Ask your doctor’s office today when flu vaccinations will be available. Then schedule time for you and your family members to get flu shots. As always, your Paradigm care team is here to help if you need assistance. Watch our social media channels and our website for additional information about how to stay safe during flu season.