Understanding the flu and its effects on seniors
With the rush of back-to-school now weeks behind us, many of masalamommas are getting into a full routine of work, childcare, family and afterschool activities. The changing seasons also means flu season is just around the corner. For many of us who live with or near grandparents, this time of year also means not only keeping our kids healthy but also ensuring grandparents have the best tools to help them stay healthy to continue to live independently as long as possible.
Influenza, especially among older adults, is more than just a bad cold. In fact, adults 65 and older are considered to be at high risk for influenza complications or hospitalization. The seasonal flu can also worsen chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, and trigger strokes and heart attacks.[i]
The seasonal flu also puts seniors at risk of losing their independence. One study found that possible functional decline caused by the flu can impact their mobility, affecting their ability to dress or bathe themselves.[ii]
Here’s some tips:
Know Your Susceptibility
Seniors are more susceptible to influenza AND less responsive to the standard vaccine. That’s primarily due to a phenomenon called immunosenescence, in which our immune systems weaken as we age.[iii] As we gear up for festival season with many family parties and gatherings which may have seniors present, we need to remember that taking care of our grandparents’ health is just as important as our childrens’ health. Influenza, especially among older adults, is more than just a bad cold.
Know Your Vulnerability
Right now, the standard flu vaccine is approximately 50% less effective in those over 65 than in younger healthy adults.[vi] These factors, coupled with the additional risk seniors face when chronic conditions are present, leave seniors with increased vulnerability to the illness.
Learn About Your Flu Vaccine Options
Getting the flu shot for seniors can make an impact. There is also a higher dose vaccine developed specifically for seniors that is significantly more effective and is associated with better outcomes.[vii] The higher dose flu vaccine has been shown to be more effective in protecting seniors from seasonal influenza.[viii],[ix]
Protect Your Loved Ones
For many of parents, it can be reassuring to know that when someone who wants to hold their child is up-to-date with their flu shot. Some people who have the flu do not show any symptoms, but they may still spread the virus to others.
For more information on the flu in seniors, talk to your health care provider or visit CARP.ca/flu.
This post was sponsored by: Sanofi Pasteur.
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[i] Wang CS, et al. Impact of influenza vaccination on major cause-specific mortality. Vaccine. 2007;25(7):1196–1203.
[ii] Barker et al. A study of the impact of influenza on the functional status of frail older people. Arch Intern Med. 1998 Mar 23;158(6):645-50.
[iii] Haq, K., McElhaney, J. E. (2014). Immunosenescence: Influenza vaccination and the elderly. Curr Opin Immunol, 29,38-42.
[iv] Monto A.S., Ansaldi, F., McElhaney, J.E., Montano, L.F., Nichol, K.L., Puig-Barbera, J.,Stephenson, I. (2009). Influenza control in the 21st century: Optimizing protection of older adults. Vaccine, 27, 5043-5053.
[v] Public Health Agency of Canada. Canadian Immunization Guide Chapter on Influenza and Statement on Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for 2016-2017. Retrieved from: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/naci-ccni/flu-2016-grippe-eng.php#iii1
[vi] Haq, K., McElhaney, J. E. (2014). Immunosenescence: Influenza vaccination and the elderly. Curr Opin Immunol, 29,38-42.
[vii] Becker, D. L., Chit, A., DiazGranados, C. A., Maschio, M., Yau, E., & Drummond, M. (2016). High-dose inactivated influenza vaccine is associated with cost savings and better outcomes compared to standard-dose inactivated influenza vaccine in Canadian seniors. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, 12(12), 3036-3042.
[viii] Product Monograph: FLUZONE® High-Dose Influenza Virus Vaccine Trivalent Types A and B (Split Virion). Sanofi Pasteur. Approved May 2016.
[ix] Public Health Agency of Canada (2016). An Advisory Committee Statement (ACS) National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI): Canadian Immunization Guide Chapter on Influenza and Statement on Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for 2016-2017. Retrieved from: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/naci-ccni/flu-2016-grippe-eng.php
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