Question: What do I need to know to prepare for the flu season this year?
The flu continues to be a concern for the fall and winter months, and we should all do our best to prepare. Flu vaccines are available now and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone over the age of 6 months get the vaccine, especially older adults who are more vulnerable to the flu. Now is a good time to get vaccinated, so do not wait. However, if you do miss out on getting it soon, you have not missed your chance. You can get vaccinated any time throughout the flu season which continues through the winter months.
Flu vaccines are available through your doctor or pharmacy. The Ventura County Healthcare Agency also provides community flu shot clinics across Ventura County. You can find the full community flu shot schedule here: http://vchca.org/images/public_health/IZ/SEPTEMBER_AND_OCTOBER_2020_2020-09-15.pdf You can call the location to see if they offer a drive up option so you do not have to even get out of your car.
There are two types of flu vaccines that are specifically licensed for people age 65 and up. This age group has a high risk of severe flu illness and low protective immune response after vaccination. Therefore, substantial research and development have produced new flu vaccines specifically for this age group, the Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent and the adjuvanted flu vaccines. Ask your doctor what they recommend.
Much is unknown about what this year’s flu season will look like, but it is important to understand that is possible to get both the flu and COVID-19 either at the same time or at different times. It is expected that both viruses will be spreading. They make look similar, and testing will be required to determine your diagnosis. Both viruses are contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.
While the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, it is important for our community to prevent the flu as much as possible to reduce our use of healthcare resources and maintain our overall health. Continue healthy habits such as handwashing, mask wearing, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces often. Prepare your home with supplies in the event you do get sick so that you already have what you need to stay home and recover. Preparations can include ensuring you have adequate cold and flu medicines, food, a thermometer and a plan for getting supplies and medications.
As we age, it is natural for our immune response to become reduced. This puts people over the age of 65 more at risk for infections and viruses. Focus on increasing your healthy habits now to balance your immune system as much as possible. Eat a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, ensure you get proper rest, exercise regularly, and work on reducing your stress.
No one lifestyle change will conclusively improve your immune system. However, combining several healthy habits will go a long way to improve your overall health, reduce other chronic condition risks, and, therefore, strengthen your ability to fight off viruses. For example, exercising regularly improves your cardiovascular heath, lowers your blood pressure, and promotes good circulation.
Consider what you are eating as fuel for your body to fight disease. For example, citrus fruits, broccoli and strawberries are high in vitamin C. Be mindful about what you eat and ensuring your body has the nutrients its needs to stay strong. The Ventura County Area Agency on Aging is offering a free nutritional course geared for people age 60 and older called “Eat Smart, Live Strong.” The online class will be held on four Thursdays beginning October 15th 11am – 12pm. You can learn more and register by calling (805) 477-7353 or e-mail Christal.Greenlaw@ventura.org
There is always something you can do to be proactive for your health. This cold and flu season, combined with COVID-19, it is even more important then ever to get your flu vaccine and maintain healthy habits.
Martha Shapiro can reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.