November 28, 2014
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Flu (Seasonal)

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Think you've got the flu?

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Seniors and the flu

Seniors tend to be more prone to getting sick. They are more likely to have medical conditions that increase the risk of flu complications, such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or a weakened immune system. For these reasons, seniors are more prone to flu complications. Seniors have a much higher risk of death from flu complications, and the risk increases with age. One study found that people 85 years or older were 16 times as likely to die of the flu and 32 times as likely to die from flu-related pneumonia as those aged 65 to 69. Seniors in long-term care facilities and nursing homes are at a particularly high risk of getting the flu and developing flu complications.

To reduce your risk of flu complications:

  • Take steps to prevent the flu. Your doctor may recommend a flu shot (to reduce your risk of the flu) and a pneumococcal vaccine (to reduce the risk of pneumonia, a common flu complication).
  • If you have flu symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible (find the flu clinic nearest to you). Use the doctor discussion guide to help you prepare for your visit. If you or your loved one are living in a long-term care facility or nursing home and have flu symptoms, tell your resident care provider right away. Keep in mind that flu symptoms may be different for seniors; in particular, seniors may not have the sudden severe fever that is common in younger people. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, which can reduce the risk of complications, reduce symptoms, and shorten the length of illness if taken within 48 hours of the start of your symptoms.
  • If you are diagnosed with the flu, follow your doctor's instructions for flu treatment. If your doctor prescribes an antiviral medication, have the prescription filled as soon as possible, and keep taking the medication for as long as your doctor recommends to complete the full course of treatment. If you have other health conditions, continue to follow your doctor's treatment plan for these conditions.

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