Flu and Older Adults


eMediNexus    13 December 2022

Millions of people each year suffer from seasonal influenza, often called the flu. It is a respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs, which occurs as a mild illness for some people, but in older adults and those with chronic (long-lasting) health conditions, it can be very serious and even life-threatening.


Flu can be associated with complications that may be mild, such as a sinus or ear infection, or more serious, like pneumonia. The risk factors for flu and its complications are age 65 or older, a history of certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, a history of heart disease or stroke, and residing in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.


The flu is more detrimental for older adults for a few reasons like a weakened immune system and the presence of co-morbidities, like diabetes, that increase their risk for flu complications. Apart from older people, pregnant women and children younger than five years old are also more likely to get very sick from the flu. Flu vaccination is essential for people in these higher-risk groups. 


Older people have slightly lower average normal body temperatures than younger adults. So when they are sick, their fever temperatures may also be lower. CDC mentions the following temperatures in older adults as the signs of an infection, such as COVID-19 or the flu:


  • A single temperature reading >100°F (37.8°C)
  • Multiple temperature readings >99°F (37.2°C)
  • A rise in temperature >2°F (1.1°C) above the person’s normal body temperature


Flu can be prevented with an annual vaccination, which is safe, effective, and economical. Apart from preventing the flu, it also reduces the chances of hospitalization or complications of flu. The CDC recommends a higher-dose flu vaccine or an adjuvanted flu vaccine in people aged 65 and older. 


Flu can be treated by antivirals. These medications also help reduce the risk of complications from the flu. On the other hand, Antibiotics do not help recover from the flu. However, they are sometimes prescribed to treat a secondary infection caused by bacteria. 


NIH[Internet]. Flu and Older Adults. June 2022. Available from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/flu-and-older-adults.

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