For many individuals, seasonal influenza (flu) is a temporary annoyance that causes aches, sniffles and perhaps a day or two in bed. However, for seniors and other vulnerable groups, the flu could cause pneumonia, bronchitis and other serious complications. In turn, this could result in hospitalization and even death.
It has been estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that more than 60 percent of hospitalizations caused by influenza and 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in seniors. As human beings age, the immune system weakens and this leaves seniors more vulnerable to infection. As such, medical professionals urge seniors and other age groups to get flu shots annually. While there are possible side effects, these shots are typically viewed as a vital first line of protection against a virus that is potentially deadly.
Getting the flu shot is especially a good idea for an elderly individual unless, of course, it has been determined that he or she has a contraindication to the vaccine. In such a case, the shot could actually be harmful to the individual.
There is a particular set of individual who should not get flu shots. For example, individuals who have a severe allergic reaction to eggs should avoid taking the shots. This is because the flu shot could activate a dangerous reaction as chicken eggs are used to grow the virus for the vaccine. Make sure you talk with your physician if you believe you are allergic to chicken eggs. You should also talk to your doctor if you developed Guillain Barre Syndrome within 4 to 6 weeks of the flu shot or if you previously had a severe reaction to the flu shot.
Flu Shot Safety
Even though it is a common fear, individuals cannot contract the flu from flu shots. A killed virus that stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies is contained in the vaccine but it cannot cause disease. In one-third of all individuals who take flu shots, the most common side effect is a bit of swelling and soreness at the site of the injection. Roughly between 5 and 10 percent of individuals, especially children and the elderly, who were never previously exposed to influenza viruses, experience mild cases of fatigue, fever and pains in their body right after the vaccination.
Pros for Getting a Flu Shot
In addition to the previously-mentioned advantages of getting the flu shot, below are some other pros:
• Based on reports from the CDC, seasonal flu shots lower the risk of individuals getting the flu by a minimum of 70 percent. This is an indication that you are 70 percent less prone to developing miserable symptoms like coughs, fever, body aches and congestion.
• Among seniors and other individuals with asthma, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic medical conditions, there is an 80 percent reduction in the risk of dying from the flu when you get the flu shot.
Cons Against Getting a Flu Shot
• According to the CDC, the chances of running into problems after taking a flu shot are statistically minimal. However, there are some possible adverse effects that could result from the flu vaccine. These include:
3. Febrile seizure
4. Guillain-Barré syndrome
An annual flu shot helps in protecting the immune system against constantly changing influenza viruses. This is done by updating the vaccine each year to reflect the most predominant strains. While it is a possibility that flu shots will not work as well in senior citizens, it still lowers the risk of contracting the flu virus. In addition, there is the option of getting a higher-dose version for those seniors who desire additional protection.