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Flu, Older Adults, and Caregivers

An older woman receives a flu shot from a young female health care professional.

Flu is highly contagious and is spread by coughing and contact. Symptoms include fever, cough, aches, and tiredness. Flu is caused by a virus and can cause mild to severe illness. In some cases, it can lead to death. Flu symptoms may come on quickly and include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In some cases, flu can lead to death. A flu shot and healthy habits can reduce your risk of getting and spreading the flu. A vaccine can also keep you from getting very sick if you do get the flu.

Why Get a Flu Shot?

The CDC and the Ohio Department of Health recommend flu vaccines for all individuals age 6 months and older.

Maintaining routine vaccinations can help prevent illnesses, reduce stress on the health care system, and protect at-risk and vulnerable populations during the pandemic. Health experts are expecting the 2021-2022 flu season to be severe. A flu shot is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your communities. It's especially important for those at increased risk for developing serious flu-related complications, such as adults age 65 and older and adults with serious chronic health conditions. Further, anyone who provides care for or spends a lot of time around people at increased risk should also get a flu shot and take other steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

A seasonal flu shot alone will not prevent COVID-19, and the COVID-19 vaccine will not prevent the flu. The Ohio Department of Health says it is safe to receive both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine. 

Peak flu season in Ohio typically runs from late fall to early spring. Early vaccination (August through October) offers the best protection against the flu, but a shot any time during flu season will provide benefits. An annual flu shot is covered by Medicare Part B with no copay for adults age 65 or older.

Where to Get a Flu Shot?

You can get your flu shot in one of many ways:

  • Make an appointment with your doctor.
  • Visit a local pharmacy, urgent care center, or walk-in clinic.
  • Attend a drive-through or curbside vaccination clinic in your community, if available.

Call ahead to ensure the location you are visiting has the vaccine in supply and ask about any COVID-19 safety protocols.

If you or an older loved one need help getting to your physician or a location that offers flu shots, contact your area agency on agency - 1-866-243-5678.

Which Shot Should You Get?

Ask your health care provider about flu vaccines specifically designed for older adults. These include high-dose and adjuvanted flu vaccines. 

  • The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine contains four times the antigens of a standard flu vaccine. This creates a stronger immune response in most people. The high-dose vaccine also protects against four different strains of the virus. 
  • An adjuvanted vaccine also protects against four virus strains and includes an added ingredient that creates a more robust immune response. 

Health experts say older adults (age 65 and older) should get either one of these vaccines, if available. Neither has significant health advantages over the other, but both offer better protection for older adults than the standard vaccine.

However, if a higher-dose or adjuvanted flu vaccine is not available from your health care provider or pharmacy, get the regular-dose shot instead. Standard protection is better than no protection.

Learn more about high-dose and adjuvanted vaccines from AARP.

Beyond the Shot: Maintain Healthy Habits

Take Care of Yourself

  • Get plenty of sleep, manage stress, and be as physically active as is appropriate for you.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritional foods.

Practice Healthy Hygiene

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after contact with other people and surfaces others may have touched.
  • When you can’t wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow then wash any affected skin immediately.

Limit Contact

  • Avoid contact with people who may be ill with the flu or COVID-19, as well as surfaces they may have touched.
  • If you feel you may be sick, limit the time you spend with others until you are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of medicine.
  • Call ahead to places like doctor’s offices, nursing homes, and senior centers to see if they have special visitation restrictions for those who have symptoms of flu or COVID-19.

If You Get Sick

If you get the flu, proper care can lessen symptoms and decrease the time you are ill. It will also lessen the time you are able to infect others.

  • Stay at home and rest.
  • If you are a caregiver for one or more older adults, arrange to have someone else take care of them while you get well.
  • Drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost through fever and sweating.
  • Talk to your health care provider about medicines that can help manage your symptoms and how they may interact with other medicines you take.