Flu and Other Potentially Life-Saving Shots
The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging’s It’s That Time of Year Again: Flu and Other Potentially Life-Saving Shots
As fall approaches, it’s time for seniors to make plans to get that all-important flu shot. Studies show that older adults are more likely than younger adults to become seriously ill after contracting the flu or other infections. In fact, the flu alone kills more than 20,000 Americans, most of them 65 and older, each year. According to American Geriatrics Society President Jane F. Potter, MD, healthcare providers and clinics often start offering f lu shots in early autumn, because it’s best to get the shot a few weeks before flu season begins. Schedule a flu shot with your healthcare provider, or ask him or her where you can get a flu shot. “At the same time, talk to your healthcare provider about other vaccinations that you and other older adults need,” Dr. Potter adds. These may include shots to protect against pneumococcal disease, tetanus, diphtheria, and other potentially deadly illnesses. Medicare covers flu and pneumococcal shots and most other vaccines that protect seniors’ health. The AGS recommends the following vaccinations for most older adults:
What It Does: Protects against the influenza virus (but not against “avian” or “bird” flu; there is no vaccine for bird flu at this time)
Who Needs It: Anyone who is 50 or older, or lives in a nursing home, or has a serious health condition such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, lung disease or HIV. Older adults’ caregivers should also get a flu shot, as should pregnant women and children younger than 2-years-old.
Who Shouldn’t Get It: People who are allergic to eggs, have had allergic reactions to flu shots in the past, or have been diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome
When to Get It: Every year, ideally in October or November
What It Does: Protects against pneumococcal bacteria, which can cause pneumonia and blood and brain infections
Who Needs It: Anyone who needs a flu shot
When to Get It: Only once, unless you had the shot before turning 65 (in that case you'll need a "booster" shot after 5 years.)
What It Does: Protects against two potentially deadly bacterial infections
Who Needs It: Everyone
When to Get It: Once every 10 years
HERPES ZOSTER (SHINGLES) SHOT
What It Does: Potects against the development of shingles--outbreaks of sometimes intensely painful rashes or blsiters on the skin--reducing the risk by 51%.
Who Needs It: Adults 60 years of age and older
Who Should Not Get It: People who have active tuberculosis, or problems with their immune system--such as leukemia, lymphoma, other malignant diseases involving the bone marrow or lymph system or HIV infection--and those taking drugs that suppress the immune system
When to Get It: Once
What else can I do to protect myself and others from contagious diseases? Wash your hands — use soap and hot water or an alcoholbased, norinse hand sanitizer — often. Bacteria and viruses, such as the flu virus, often spread when people touch something contaminated with these germs and then touch their eyes, noses or mouths. Avoid close contact with people who are sick and keep your distance from others when you're the one who's sick. Cover your mouth and nose (preferably with a tissue) when you cough or sneeze.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends additional shots — including the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccination, and shots for Varicella, Hepatitis A and B, and Meningococcal disease — for older adults who run an increased risk of these diseases because they have certain health problems, occupations, or lifestyles. Ask your healthcare provider if you should get any of these additional shots.
Foundation for Health in Aging Established by the American Geriatrics Society 350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 801, New York, NY 10118 (212)755-6810 www.healthinaging.org The Foundation for Health in Aging builds a bridge between the research and practice of geriatrics health care professionals and the public. The Foundation advocates on behalf of older adults and their special needs through public education, clinical research, and public policy. The American Geriatrics Society is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of older adults. With a membership of over 6,000 health care professionals, the AGS has a long history of improving the health care of older adults.