With all the talk about Coronavirus, sometimes you can almost forget that other diseases still exist. However, flu season is still on its way just like every year. And in fact, it’s more important than ever for seniors to have their flu shot this 2020 season.
What is the Flu?
A lot of people think of the flu as a stomach bug, or maybe a bad cold. Actually, the flu (short for influenza) is a specific virus that affects the lungs. Flu usually hits hard and fast, coming on quickly and making most people feel quite ill with symptoms like fever, cough, fatigue, and body aches.
Even a mild case of the flu can last for a few days to a couple of weeks of sickness. In severe cases, flu can last longer and hit harder and can cause serious complications such as pneumonia and even death. Seniors are especially at risk from the flu due to age-related changes in the body’s ability to fight off disease.
Although the flu is a single disease caused by a single type of virus, the flu virus changes and mutates every year. This is why the flu can make you sick over and over instead of being an illness that you get once and never get again. Even if you had flu once, by the next season it will have changed so much that your body doesn’t recognize that it’s the same disease and won’t protect you.
What is the Flu Shot?
The flu shot is a vaccine that protects against the flu. It does this by exposing your immune system to a small amount of dead flu virus in order to teach your body how to fight it off.
Because the flu virus changes so much from year to year, the vaccine needs to change as well. This is why getting a new flu shot every year is so important. Last year’s flu shot cannot protect you from the kind of flu going around this year. Doctors and scientists work throughout the year to analyze the newest strains of flu and create a vaccine that will protect against those they think are most likely to be a problem during each flu season.
It’s important to know that the flu shot does not have live virus in it. It cannot make you sick or give you the flu. You may feel unwell for a day or two after getting the shot because your immune system is learning how to fight off the flu virus. This is not the same as having the flu.
Why is the Flu Shot Extra Important in 2020?
Many symptoms of the flu are similar to symptoms of COVID-19. Often, the only way to tell the difference between flu and COVID-19 is through medical testing at a doctor’s office.
It is possible to get sick with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. This is an extremely dangerous situation, especially for seniors who are already at higher risk from both diseases. There is evidence that having flu and COVID-19 together can make you sicker than either virus alone.
Many seniors who get the flu need hospital treatment. In fact, most flu-related hospitalizations are patients over the age of 65. Right now, because of COVID-19, the doctors and nurses who treat respiratory disease are already under a heavy caseload. One way to help reduce the burden of caring for COVID-19 patients is to help reduce the number of flu patients coming into the hospital. Getting a vaccine is the best way to do this.
Who Should Get the Flu Shot?
All people over the age of 65 should have a flu vaccine, as should caregivers and family members who see them regularly. Remember that it is easy for friends or family to catch the flu somewhere else and pass it on to a senior during a visit before they even realize they are sick.
No vaccine is 100% effective. Because of this, some people feel that it is not worthwhile to get the vaccine at all. However, the more people who are vaccinated, the fewer people will get sick at all. In addition, if you get the flu after having the vaccine, you are likely to be much less sick.
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