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Older Adults, Caregivers, and the Flu
An older woman receives a flu shot from a young female health care professional.

Now more than ever, it's important to get a flu shot

With the flu season coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging everyone older than 6 months of age to get a flu shot to help protect themselves and their communities. It's especially important for those at increased risk for developing serious flu-related complications, such as adults age 65 and older, adults with serious chronic health conditions, and anyone who provides care for or spends a lot of time around people at increased risk.

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.

Get a flu shot

Maintaining routine vaccinations can help prevent illnesses, reduce stress on the healthcare system, and protect at-risk and vulnerable populations during the pandemic. While a seasonal flu shot will not prevent COVID-19, it may reduce the risk to you and your loved ones from becoming seriously ill with the flu.

Early vaccination offers the best protection against the flu, but a shot any time during flu season will provide benefits. The annual flu shot is covered by Medicare Part B with no copay for adults age 65 or older. 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.

It is recommended you call ahead to ensure the location you are visiting has the vaccine in supply. Ask your health care provider about a higher-dose vaccine specifically designed for older adults. If a higher-dose vaccine is not available from your health care provider or pharmacy, get the regular-dose shot instead. 

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.

Other steps to minimize your risk of getting and spreading the flu

  • Maintain good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, manage stress, and be as physically active as is appropriate for you. Drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritional foods.
  • Wash your hands. Scrubbing with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds can kill most of the viruses your hands encounter, including flu and coronavirus. 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. 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 your contact. Avoid contact with people who may be ill with the flu or COVID-19, as well as surfaces they may have touched. Likewise, 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. 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.