By Rutherford Regional Health System

Flu season is upon us. And while people of all ages should be vigilant in protecting themselves, older adults and people with chronic diseases are more likely to have problems from the flu. It often leads to a hospital stay, and in extreme cases can be fatal. But this condition is easy to prevent, and the proper steps can keep you healthy during flu season.

Older adults tend the show the same symptoms of the flu as those in other age groups: fever, aches and pains, headache, sore throat, cough and runny nose are the most common signs. But older adults and children also are more likely to have stomach problems like vomiting, diarrhea and nausea with the flu.

Older adults must be aware that flu can lead to dehydration and pneumonia. Also, chronic conditions such as heart disease, asthmas and emphysema can worsen with the flu. But the flu can be prevented with a vaccine. In fact, studies have shown that instances of hospitalization and death can be drastically reduced for older adults living at home or in nursing facilities.

A high-dose vaccine is made just for seniors, with four times as much active ingredient as regular flu shots. The high-dose vaccine provides a better immune response and it’s recommended for those 65 and older, if available. It is important that flu viruses change each year so it’s important to get a new shot each fall.

Additionally, there are two vaccines to prevent pneumonia. For healthy adults, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends having both.

A common question is whether older adults may take the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine. If you are over 49 years of age it is not recommended, and recent information suggests that the nasal spray vaccine may not be effective at all for this year’s flu season.

Although it’s recommended to have your flu shot early in the season, like September, it still helps to get the vaccine even if you’ve waited longer than that to have it. Remember that it takes your body up to two weeks after having the shot to build immunity to the virus and to protect you.

If you feel you have contracted the flu, rest and fluids are extremely important. Also, ask your doctor of pharmacist before you take any over-the-counter cold or flu medicine to ensure it doesn’t interfere with other prescription drugs or worsen any of your pre-existing medical conditions.

Locally, you can call 800-434-DOCS if you need a physician or if Rutherford Regional Health System can assist you. Information also is available at MyRutherfordRegional.com.