The flu is an undeniably nasty virus that circulates every year, and it seems like its effects and symptoms just get worse with each passing flu season. It’s an observation that is especially prominent among the “65 and up” crowd, but it’s well understood that seniors are more vulnerable to complications from contracting influenza.
However, many wonder if the same applies to their yearly flu shot. Flu vaccination is a hot topic across the country, especially as new options are now available to seniors, such as extra-strength flu shots that offer extra protection from the illness. As you explore your choices, it’s best to consider the potential side effects of a high-dose flu vaccine recommended for older adults.
What Is a Senior Flu Shot?
There are two different definitions (or types) of a “senior flu shot.” One offers a higher dose of flu antigens, natural compounds that stimulate your body’s innate immune response; the other contains a special added ingredient to provoke a stronger immune response.
Who Should Get High-Dose Flu Shots?
High-dose flu shots are recommended for adults over 65, particularly those with weakened immune systems.
As you age, your immune responses inherently weaken, but certain chronic health conditions can further sap the effectiveness of those responses, making the flu dangerous or even deadly if contracted.
Such is the core reason behind the development of the high-dose flu shot: to reduce the risk of complications related to influenza infections.
What to Know About High-Dose Flu Shots: Possible Side Effects
There are many scientific professionals involved in creating vaccines, but each shot — no matter its purpose — will have its share of potential side effects. With a high-dose flu shot, in particular, you may feel under the weather in the following ways after receiving it:
Muscle Soreness, Tenderness, and Redness
The flu vaccine is an intramuscular injection, meaning it’s injected directly into your muscle tissue. That helps your body distribute the formula quickly and effectively, but because flu shots use needles to deliver the injection, you may experience tenderness, swelling, and redness at the injection site.
You might experience all-over body aches after receiving a high-dose flu vaccine, but these are normal and to be expected, especially from high-dose formulas. Your body is unleashing an immune response to fight off the inactive virus from the vaccine, which can cause fatigue and achiness.
It’s less common to experience nausea after a flu shot, but it is still possible. Some recipients feel queasy for a day or two after their high-dose flu vaccine, so it’s often best to stick to simple foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast if you have trouble keeping other things down.
While the virus antigens in the flu vaccine are dead and thus inactive, your immune system may still stimulate a fever response to raise your internal temperature and make your body a less favorable host for viruses and bacteria. As a result, you may feel chilly, hot, or restless.
Headaches aren’t very common after receiving a dose of the flu shot, but people who are generally prone to them may experience them. As your body works to adapt to the inactivated “threat” from the vaccine, it can cause a mild headache that often goes hand in hand with general body aches and chills.
What if You Don’t Get Vaccinated? Serious Flu Complications
Though the potential side effects of the high-dose flu vaccine might sound unpleasant, complications arising from catching a case of the flu are even worse. Older adults are at much higher risk for serious flu complications than those in other age groups, and if you have a chronic health condition, that risk grows even higher.
Choosing to forgo a flu vaccination can be immensely dangerous for you, causing things such as:
Seniors make up the majority of influenza hospitalizations. Not only is a hospital stay in and of itself never fun to experience, but being in the hospital for an extended period can expose you to other dangerous illnesses as well. As such, it’s best to avoid risking your health and requiring hospitalization in the first place by choosing to get vaccinated instead.
As influenza is an illness that causes respiratory inflammation, it can also cause trouble with breathing. Without enough oxygen, your brain and body become unable to function properly. You may experience wheezing, coughing, chest pressure, and other frightening symptoms.
As your body works overtime to get rid of the flu virus, it may cause seizures — electrical misfirings — in your brain. New seizure activity increases your risk of having seizures in the future as well.
Unfortunately, older adults often die from flu complications if they’re unvaccinated, as their body systems can start to fail and shut down.
The flu shot won’t always prevent you from contracting it, but it can reduce your risk for such serious complications. Keep that in mind as you make your decision about receiving the vaccine.
High-Dose Flu Vaccines for Elderly People: Make the Right Choice for You
It’s important to get educated on the side effects and benefits of flu vaccines. No matter what choice you make in the end, we encourage you to look at all sides of the issue and stay informed.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.