Talk to your parents about the flu shot. It’s important!

Talk to your parents about the flu shot. It’s important!

You’ve had your flu shot. The kids have had theirs. But what about your elderly parents or even grandparents? Have they remembered to get their flu shot this year?

As we get older, we become more at risk of catching the nasty illness with each passing year. Our quick guide explores why reminding and encouraging older family members to get a flu shot is so important.

Why might the flu hit our parents so hard?

Our immune system helps us fight off germs and infections. It weakens as we age, and so doesn’t function as well (1). Because of this, older family members are at greater risk of having serious complications if they do catch the flu (2); complications that might include developing bronchitis or pneumonia (3).

Older people also frequently have chronic health conditions that reduce their resistance to infection (3). Catching the flu can also exacerbate those existing health conditions (3). So, if someone already has heart problems, diabetes, chronic liver or kidney disease or a lung disorder, the flu may worsen these conditions with severe outcomes (2).

While flu seasons vary, it’s older people who are more likely to develop severe flu during most flu seasons (4). Our parents are more likely than us to find themselves in hospital with the flu (5). And with eight out of ten severe flu outcomes among those over the age of 65 (6), we’ll want to ensure we help our parents minimise their risk of becoming seriously ill with the virus.

Will vaccination prevent our parents from catching the flu?

You can see why it’s so important for our parents to have an annual flu jab (3); vaccination is the most effective way of reducing their risk of catching the flu (2).

However, older people’s weaker immune systems mean they often have a lower protective immune response after flu vaccination compared to younger, healthier adults (4). Because of this, the flu shot may be less effective in preventing them from catching the flu (6). Vaccination will, however, reduce the severity of their illness and the risk of complications if they do, unfortunately, catch the flu (6).

Recent research confirmed that flu vaccination reduces the risk of serious flu complications that might lead to older people needing a stay in hospital (4). The 2017 study showed it reduces severe outcomes, admissions to intensive care and the length of hospital stays when people find themselves in hospital with the flu – with people aged 65 and over seeing the greatest benefit (4).

It may not always be easy to talk to our elders about the steps they can take to keep well, but it is important. Have you spoken to your parents – and even their parents – about getting a flu shot?


References
(1) https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/keep-well-this-winter/stay-healthy-in-winter/
(2) http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/communicable-diseases/pages/news/news/2015/10/no-to-influenza-vaccination-costs-thousands-of-lives
(3) https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/conditions-illnesses/flu-prevention/
(4) https://www.insidescience.org/news/why-sleep-soothes-flu
(5) https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/seasonal-influenza/facts/factsheet
(6) https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)

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