Older adults and people with chronic diseases are at the greatest risk of problems associated with seasonal flu.
Of all age groups, individuals older than age 84 have the highest risk of dying from seasonal flu complications; those older than age 74 face the second highest risk of flu complications. Children age 4 and younger have the third highest risk of problems with seasonal flu.
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Getting a seasonal flu shot is a very smart idea. It reduces hospitalization by about 70% and death by about 85% among older adults who do not live in nursing homes, according to the National Institute on Aging. Among nursing home residents, the flu shot does the following:
reduces the risk of hospitalization by about 50%
reduces the risk of pneumonia by about 60%
reduces the risk of death by 75% to 80%
There is now a high-dose flu vaccine made specifically for the elderly. The high-dose flu shot contains four times as much active ingredient as a regular flu shot. It is supposed to bring on a higher immune response than the regular flu shot. The shot is recommended for this age group, if it's available.
Keep in mind that the seasonal flu viruses change each year, so older adults need to get a new flu shot each fall.
The CDC recommends that older adults and senior citizens also get a one-time pneumococcal vaccine. The pneumococcal vaccine helps prevent bacterial pneumonia in older adults. This vaccine can be given at the same time as the flu shot.