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Flu and Other Shots for Elders

category_bug_journal2.gif As you know, I was down for a week or so last month with a flu. Well, that wasn't a professional diagnoses - just my own based on aches, pains, a low-grade fever and feeling amazingly rotten.

After allowing a couple more weeks for complete recovery, a few days ago I hied myself off to my local pharmacy for the annual flu shot. It is covered my Medicare and just as I was thinking about posting a flu shot reminder to all of you who read TGB, a remarkably succinct and useful Tipsheet [pdf] on vaccines arrived via email from The American Geriatrics Society.

The Centers for Disease Control recommend that almost everyone age 65 and older get an annual flu shot. It saves thousands of hospitalizations and deaths and is especially important for those who live in a nursing home and have serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, lung disease or HIV because they are at higher risk of experiencing serious, flu-related complications.

This year's flu shot protects against the three strains of the influenza virus that are most common worldwide including the 2009 H1N1 virus. There are three choices of how the shot is delivered:

  1. The regular shot delivered into muscle
  2. Regular shot delivered with a smaller needle under the skin instead of muscle still providing the same degree of protection
  3. A new, high-dose shot especially for people 65 and older that may provide a stronger immune response

It is not yet known if that third option results if greater protection, but “it is more likely to cause pain, redness and swelling at the injection site and mild, but temporary headache, muscle aches, fever and discomfort.” (I know that sounds remarkably like the flu but no, it is not possible to get the flu from a flu shot.)

Whichever you (or your physician) choose, be sure to get your shot soon so you are protected during the high flu season in January and February.

There are some people who should not take the annual shot: “People who are allergic to eggs, have had allergic reactions to flu shots in the past, or have been diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome.”

The Tipshit Tipsheet also contains information on other vaccines you may want to discuss with your physician – pneumococcal that protects against pneumococcal bacteria, Tdap and shingles.

Most of you probably know all this, but I would be remiss in not mentioning one of the most successful and easiest illness preventions we have.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: The Cat Who Loved Cosmo


You may not know the answer to this, but why would someone choose a more painful shot with a bigger needle into the muscle, if you could get an equally effective teeny shot under the skin?

I got my flu shot last week and I don't understand why everyone (who can) doesn't get one. Thanks for the reminder--good stuff.

Got my flu shot last week (I have asthma). Since 1989 when I started getting the annual flu shot, I've missed just 2 years and got influenza both of those years.

I've had influenza 4 times. Those who've never had it can't imagine how ill it makes a person. MUCH worse than a cold.

The intradermal vaccine is for people 18 through 64 years of age, so those of us over 64 are out of luck on the easier shot.

From what I've read and heard, influenza causes about 30,000 deaths annually.

Worth it then to get the shot!

I used to think I didn't need to get the shot, until I got the flu two years in a row.

When I hear someone say they "think" they have the flu, I know they probably don't.

Ronni, typo in the next to last paragraph....

...and others who notified me by email:

I'm still giggling about the typo in the next to last paragraph. Fixed now. Teehee.

Obviously, the error is mine and in no way reflects on The American Geriatrics Society Tipsheet.

Had my annual flu jab earlier this week and the pneumococcal vaccine about 5 years ago. Highly recommended, especially to anyone over 60.

The only one I haven't had is the shingles shot. I keep forgetting to talk with the doc about it. Thanks for this.

Last month my HMO scheduled flu shots for everyone that belongs to their group. I had an appointment and was in and out in a matter of minutes. I am covered for another year, thank goodness and I didn't have to stand in a long line to wait my turn as I have in the past.

I had my flu shot at my local Walgreen's a couple weeks ago. It beats waiting to get into my doctor and, even better, it was the 2nd year I used them and they sent me a reminder with the paperwork filled out for this year's jab! A no-brainer and no cost!!!!

I got my shot at Kaiser yesterday. Thanks, Ronni, for the actual info on what flus it protects against.
I got enough of a reaction to be headachy and weak for the rest of the day.
When I get the flu, I get very very sick, so these shots are a godsend.

We got our shots 2 1/2 weeks ago. He's THE best internist and we've been going to him for 38 yrs. He didn't choose the "fluzone high-dose" so I figure he's waiting for "results" (a few yrs. away, the CDC said) and not using his elders as guinea pigs.

No thanks on flu shots.Prefer preventive measures to maintain health and natural medicine if I get a cold or flu, which is seldom.

One of the best descriptions of the difference between the flu and a cold – with the flu you feel like you have been hit by a truck, totally wiped out. With a cold, it is annoying but you usually can go about your day. No contest for me, I’ll take the shot.

This is probably the ONLY thing I disagree with you about, Ronni. I think I would rather die than get a flu shot. And perhaps one day the flu will kill me. But, to each his own.

To each his or her own, but if you aren't allergic to the ingredients, the flu shot seems low-risk to me. I've had one ever since they first became generally available (10-12 years ago?) with absolutely no adverse side effects. I haven't had the flu in years and don't know whether I would have gotten it without the shot or not. Still, why take the chance of missing work, getting very sick and maybe even being hospitalized with the flu?

I'm in complete agreement with Gaea Yudron re: preventive measures and natural "medicine" over flu shots. We've gotten scared stiff into taking flu shots (and pills for everything else) and those who don't buy the line are labeled deluded -- or worse. I feel sad for that, because there's so much info out there that promotes drug-free health and wellness but it seems to have a rough go of it penetrating the public consciousness. I'm always amazed at the degree to which our older "demographic" is caught in the sickness treatment loop. I'm happy, though, when I read at least one other view and practice. Thanks, Gaea. And Nikki, too (btw, if you don't think the flu will "kill" you one day, truly, it won't). p.s. Elizabeth, you're fortunate to have avoided side effects. I'm 64, have never taken flu shots and had (maybe) something "flu-like" for a day or two about seven years ago. That's it. We are stronger than we realize.

Me thinks that some of the comments are self-delusional. Taking a vaccine is not equivalent to od'ing on meds. Since influenza was responsible for more deaths than was caused by the conflict, during (what is now known as) World War I, it is the responsible thing to do to take the immunizing shot. No, the shot will not provide immunity to 100% of those who take it, but I'm betting on the odds.

I certainly don't feel my thoughts were self-delusional. I'm sorry Cab you seem to think that. To say "I'm 64, have never taken flu shots and had (maybe) something 'flu-like' for a day or two about seven years ago" is just fact. Comments that don't agree with the accepted way are always going to be troublesome to many. Yet, it doesn't mean that they're lacking in validity. Clearly, you feel more comfortable with your shots, and, of course, that's your choice. Mine is not to take them and, yes, to suggest that my lovely fellow seniors do have legitimate alternatives, and to wonder aloud whether we're just too dependent upon pharmaceuticals and the medical mindset that goes along with that dependency. It isn't a criticism of somebody else's personal decisions. It's a general observation that begs for an airing every so often, just to make sure we never stop asking questions. When it comes to who has responsibility for our lives, I really believe our own inner wisdom trumps anything else. I know this is so when I think back to childhood. Life was health-oriented, and "illness" care practically non-existent whereas now, the first item of conversation is likely to be, "I'm taking abc meds and my doctor says I also need xyz, what about you?" Half of elders' time and worry centers around paperwork relating to some form of medical intervention. Really, I just never expected my generation would approach its so-called twilight years so taken up with what's wrong with us rather than what's right.

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