Seniors and the Flu: Protection Through Vaccination October 6, 2015 By Will Sowards Leave a Comment As part of our series of Passport Health Flu Week blog posts, we look at the importance influenza vaccination plays in senior health. The National Council on Aging has been working to help seniors and others understand the importance of influenza vaccination for years. The organization is currently running it’s Flu+You campaign to help raise awareness of the need for a flu shot among this demographic. Today, we are featuring a guest post by Kathleen Cameron, BS Pharm, MPH, Senior Director at the National Council on Aging. Kathleen has more than 25 years of experience in the healthcare field as a pharmacist, researcher and program director focusing on falls prevention, geriatric pharmacotherapy, mental health, long-term services and supports, and care giving. As a pharmacist, I’ve seen the impact influenza (“the flu”) can have on a community first-hand. Flu can spread very quickly and can cause significant disruption in our daily lives. From lost days at school or work, to hospitalizations and even death in some cases, the flu can be more dangerous than many realize. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone six months of age and older, with rare exception, get an annual flu vaccination. Adults 65 and older are especially at risk because, as the immune system weakens with age, they become more susceptible to the flu and its complications. Surprisingly, a recent survey found only 8 percent of older adults said they were concerned about getting the flu. In addition, people with chronic health conditions that are common among seniors, like heart disease, diabetes and respiratory conditions, are also at greater risk of flu-related complications. Prevention is critical. According to the CDC, the single best way to help protect ourselves from the flu is an annual flu shot. Older adults have flu vaccine options – including the regular flu shot and a higher-dose vaccine developed specifically to help address the age-related weakening of the immune system. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has an educational program called Flu + You that provides older adults with facts about the seriousness of the flu, the importance of prevention and available vaccine options. Flu season is starting, and the flu shot is available now. As a community pharmacist, I want to do all I can to help prevent the spread of the flu. In addition to the flu shot as the best way to help prevent the flu, we all must regularly wash our hands. I tell people to sing one complete verse of “Happy Birthday” while washing their hands. When we travel, we touch objects that haven’t been cleaned and sit near people who may be sick, possibly exposing us to illness. If possible, stay away from people who are sick, and stay home if you think you might be ill. If hand washing with soap and water isn’t an option, consider packing a small bottle of hand sanitizer in a bag you can easily access. Other preventive methods include always covering our coughs and sneezes, staying away from people who are sick, and telling family members and friends not to go out in public while sick. Also, it is important that we always live a healthy lifestyle by getting regular physical activity, eating healthy and getting plenty of rest. These basic strategies will help reduce our stress and enable us to better fight infection. Don’t let the flu slow you down this winter. Take steps to help protect yourself and your loved ones. Get the facts and information about the flu and vaccine options available for older adults at ncoa.org/Flu. For more information on Flu+You, the National Council on Aging and their other efforts, visit their website. For more information on influenza and how Passport Health can help you stay safe this flu season, see our influenza page. Schedule your flu shot appointment today by calling or booking your appointment online today!