Seniors (Adults 65 Years and Older) and the Flu


Seniors at a birthday partyFor older adults, the seasonal flu can be very serious, even deadly. Each year in the U.S., deaths from flu-related causes range from 3,300 to 48,600 (average of 23,600), and more than 200,000 are hospitalized from serious flu complications. Ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.


Actions To Take This Flu Season

1. Get Your Flu Shot

Getting vaccinated means not only protecting yourself, but not spreading the flu to your spouse, children, or grandchildren. CDC recommends getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available in your community because it takes the body about two weeks to build up immunity. The immunity will last throughout the entire flu season.

You should get vaccinated this year even if you got a 2009 H1N1 or a seasonal vaccine last year because the vaccine viruses have been updated. Immunity sets in about two weeks after vaccination.

This season, people 65 years and older will have two flu shots available to choose from – a regular dose flu vaccine and a new flu vaccine designed specifically for people 65 and older with a higher dose. This should result in a stronger immune response. Both vaccines will protect against the same three flu viruses. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the best option for you.

If you have Medicare Part B, health insurance, there is no cost to you for the flu shot if the doctor accepts assignment for giving the shot.

The flu vaccine is safe and effective, and because the influenza viruses in the flu shot are inactive, you can’t get influenza from the vaccine.

2. Take Everyday Preventive Actions

Stay healthy by practicing these healthy habits

  • Avoid people who are sick with the flu
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands often
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Get plenty of sleep, stay physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food

3. Seek Medical Advice Quickly if You Develop Flu Symptoms

You might need medical evaluation or treatement with antiviral drugs.

It’s very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat flu in people

  • who are very sick with flu (for example, people who are in the hospital)
  • who are sick with flu and have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications, like people 65 and older

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Why should seniors get the flu shot?As we age, our immune system is weakened, making us more susceptible to the flu.

Click here to locate a seasonal flu clinic near you