Elderly should exercise care against the flu

People over 65 can get a more potent flu shot to protect themselves and their families.

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People over 65 can get a more potent flu shot to protect themselves and their families.

If you or someone you care about is among the nearly one in three Americans who help an elderly family member make health care decisions, here are a few facts and tips that can help you have far more than the germ of an idea about the flu and what to do about it:

• A flu shot is the most effective way to protect yourself and your family from catching the flu.

• It takes up to two weeks for your immunity to build up after getting a flu shot.

• It’s important to get the flu shot every year because the immunity provided by the vaccine declines over time.

• To help combat germs, wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your mouth and eyes. Touching such everyday items as door handles and other surfaces can be difficult to avoid.

• Getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing stress, drinking adequate fluids and eating nutritious food are all healthy habits that can help to keep your immune system in top condition during flu season.

• Children younger than age 5 are at high risk for flu-related complications. For school-age children, remind them of the importance of hand washing and using tissues when they sneeze. The influenza vaccine is not approved for children younger than 6 months of age.

• Pregnant women are more susceptible to getting sick, including catching the flu, because their immune systems are weaker than usual. During pregnancy, the flu can escalate quickly and be complicated by such infections as fetal distress or pneumonia.

• A recent survey from a pharmacy company found that 61 percent of U.S. adults don’t know that the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine contains four times the antigens as the regular flu vaccine. This can be especially important for people over 65 who have a greater risk of developing severe flu-related illness. Visit

for additional information about the differences in flu shots.

• Getting the flu shot can be very affordable. Flu vaccines are now fully covered as a preventive service under the Affordable Care Act and available at no cost through most insurance plans, including Medicare Part B.