For at least 25 years - more likely, 30 - when fall rolls around, I get a flu shot. As I have undoubtedly related in the past, the one year I neglected it, I was down for two weeks literally out of my head with fever and pain.
When I eventually came to my senses, there were two, empty, one-gallon jugs of water in the kitchen. Since New York City water is perfectly good and drinkable, I had never bought such things in the past and I had no memory of where they came from.
In my sick confusion, had I dragged myself to the corner bodega for them? And if so, why? Did a friend stop by to see how I was doing and leave them for me? I have no idea. No one ever mentioned such a visit to me and the empty water bottles became one of those little mysteries of life never to be solved.
But I have never forgotten how miserable I was for 14 straight days and that it was another month before I was fully healthy again, no longer dragging my ass through each day and sleeping 12 hours a night.
So when I was out and about yesterday on a variety of errands, I stopped by the pharmacy for my annual flu shot and this is my reminder to you to do so.
People 65 and older are among the high-risk people for flu because our age group suffers more serious complications from the disease than younger people. As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explains,
”It's estimated that 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations in the United States each year occur in people 65 years and older.
“This is because human immune defenses become weaker with age. So influenza can be a very serious disease for people 65 and older.”
TYPES OF FLU VACCINES
For elders, there are two choices of the vaccine – the regular one everyone else takes and the Fluzone High-Dose version. In studies, the high dose version appears to create a greater immune response but it is not yet known if this leads to greater protection.
The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine is as safe as the normal version but a slightly greater number of mild and temporary adverse effects have been reported during clinical trials. They include
”...pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, headache, muscle aches, fever and malaise. Most people had minimal or no adverse events after receiving the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine,” reports the CDC.
The high-dose shot is available only to people age 65 and older.
WHO SHOULD NOT TAKE THE FLU VACCINE
Certain people should not take the vaccine or should not take certain types of the vaccine. Among those who should avoid it altogether is anyone who has had a severe reaction to eggs in the past. (Small quantities of egg are used in the preparation of the vaccine.)
People who have had a severe reaction to the flu shot in the past should not have it along with anyone with a history of Guillane-Barre Syndrome (GBS).
There is also a nasal spray flu vaccine that should NOT be given to anyone age 50 and older. You can see all the precautions and restrictions at this CDC page.
MEDICARE AND FLU SHOTS
For those of us who are 65 and older, Medicare usually pays for the flu shot. As medicare.gov explains:
”You pay nothing for a flu shot if the doctor or other qualified health care provider accepts assignment for giving the shot, and the Part B deductible doesn't apply.
“If you get your flu shot from a doctor who doesn't accept assignment, you may have to pay an additional fee for the doctor's services, but not for the shot itself.”
EVERY-DAY PREVENTION ACTIONS
As you probably know, the annual flu vaccine is made up of the three strains of influenza virus that experts believe will most likely hit the United States. Maybe they are correct and maybe not so it is important to take personal preventive action. Here are a few - this is common-sense stuff you have always known:
• Avoid contact with sick people
• If you get sick, avoid other people until your fever is gone
• Cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw away the tissue
• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
And if there are any TGB readers who haven't gotten the message yet that the anti-vaccine movement led by Jenny McCarthy has been thoroughly discredited and refuse the vaccine, keep your distance from me and from all old people. Please.
There is more day-to-day prevention advice at this CDC page [pdf]. Stay well this season, everyone.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Now