(CLEVELAND CLINIC) – Flu-related complications, hospitalizations and deaths in adults are generally most common in people over age 65, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to Ronan Factora, M.D., a geriatric physician at Cleveland Clinic, older people may have a tough time with the flu because of changes that take place in the body as we age.
“When you get older, there are changes in your immune system that actually occur that will predispose you to getting the flu,” said Dr. Factora. “Unfortunately, with aging as well, your ability to fight off the flu becomes impaired.”
Dr. Factora said getting a flu vaccine is a good way to reduce the likelihood of getting the flu and also reduce the severity of the flu, for those who happen to get it.
He adds that for people age 65 and older, there’s a high dose flu vaccine that has a greater number of virus particles to help the body build immunity.
Some people develop pneumonia after they have the flu, which can be life threatening.
Therefore, it’s recommended that people over age 65 get a one-time pneumonia vaccine, in addition to a yearly flu shot.
If an older loved one does become sick with the flu, it’s important they stay well hydrated.
Dr. Factora said dehydration is one of the reasons seniors end up hospitalized with the flu.
“People who are older have a lower amount of water in their body relative to someone who is younger,” said Dr. Factora. “People 65 and older do have a higher risk of dehydration, whether it’s because they’re not drinking enough water to maintain their total body water, or, if they lose water as result of fever; you want to make sure they’re very well hydrated.”
Dr. Factora said seniors who aren’t feeling well should make sure loved ones are aware.
He said it’s important to check in on someone who is older and ill to make sure they have the help they need and get appropriate medical care, if necessary.