Ah, wintertime… The time of year when you bundle up in your cozy sweaters and fuzzy socks while sipping on some hot cocoa. Unfortunately, this cozy season also includes a higher risk of contracting the flu. Influenza (flu) causes millions of illnesses and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations each year in the United States, and people of all ages are at risk. So, during the week of December 5th, public health and healthcare agencies across the nation are highlighting the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond.
As a caregiver, every day is a busy day– you are juggling your caregiving responsibilities along with your personal life and work life. It is already hard enough to find an off day as is, and no one has time to be sick for days or weeks with the flu. Currently, flu activity is elevated across the United States, so getting the flu vaccine can help prevent flu illness and potentially serious flu complications.
In addition, it is just as important to prevent the elderly population from getting the flu. Not only is the flu harder to fight off for adults 65 and older, but they are also at an increased risk for hospitalizations from the virus. Various risk factors, such as age and chronic medical conditions can make the flu no joke for seniors. When a flu infection worsens, it can progress to pneumonia and lead to hospitalization.
Are you part of the 50%?
According to the CDC, flu vaccination coverage among all people ≥6 months was 51.4% during the 2021-22 season. However, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) expects to see lower coverage this season. The NFID conducted a survey and found some of the top reasons why adults are choosing to not get vaccinated:
- 41% believe the flu vaccine does not work well
- 39% are concerned about the side effects from the vaccine
- 28% say they never contract the flu
- 24% are concerned about getting the flu from the shot
- 20% do not think influenza is a serious illness
Nevertheless, prevention is key. Scientific research has shown that getting your flu vaccine each year is the best preventive tool available for preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death from influenza. Recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness between 40% and 60% among the overall population during peak flu season (CDC). In addition, a 2018 study by the CDC showed that from 2012 to 2015, flu vaccination among adults reduced the risk of being admitted to an ICU with flu by 82%.
Make sure your older family members are vaccinated
As we get older, our immune systems weaken and do not respond as well to illnesses we contract. In fact, between 50% and 70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people 65 years and older (CDC). Various risk factors can also make fighting the flu tougher among older adults. For example, individuals with lung disease often experience increased lung inflammation which can make symptoms worse. Additionally, individuals with diabetes who have contracted the flu can face varying blood sugar levels. The flu normally causes an increase in blood glucose levels, so it is important for diabetics to check their blood glucose levels more regularly than usual after contracting the flu.
Ways you can #FightFlu
The flu is more than just a bad cold. National Influenza Vaccination Week is an important opportunity to remind every person 6 months and older that there is still time to protect themselves and their loved ones from influenza by getting their flu vaccine. Here are 4 simple steps you can do as a caregiver or loved one to help prevent you and your family from getting the flu:
- Get your vaccine. There are many clinics that offer flu vaccines, as well as pharmacies. You can locate the nearest place to receive your flu vaccine at www.vaccines.gov
- Wash your hands often and well. Hand washing is an important defense mechanism against icky germs like the flu virus. The great thing about hand washing is that it is easy protection from these germs.
- Make sure older loved ones get their flu vaccine. For folks 65 and older, they are at high risk for the flu. High dose and adjuvanted flu vaccines are available for adults 65 and older, which builds a higher immune response.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. You can fight the flu on a daily basis by keeping your immune system strong. Great ways to do so include getting a full night’s rest, drinking plenty of water, and eating nutritious foods.
About the author:
Jennah Worthington is a Brand Ambassador Intern for illuminate.health and is a senior studying Healthcare & Business at Butler University. She has a passion for the pharmaceutical industry and gaining a deeper understanding of the roles of health providers, insurers, and administrators. She strives to help find ways to increase accessibility in various areas of healthcare. Jennah resides in Indianapolis and enjoys going on walks with her Dalmatian.