Influenza, which people commonly call flu, is typically a seasonal infection. It is more likely to cause complications, such as pneumonia, in older adults than younger adults.
This article explores how flu may affect older people, including symptoms, potential complications, and treatment. It also explains how people may help prevent the spread of flu and when they may need to speak with a healthcare professional.
For more information and resources to help keep you and your loved ones healthy this flu season, visit our dedicated hub.
- 27–54 million illnesses
- 300,000–650,000 hospitalizations
- 19,000–58,000 deaths
People over the age of 65 have a
The CDC state that vaccination is the best way for a person to help prevent contracting the flu and any potentially severe complications.
Flu generally causes a rapid onset of symptoms.
The virus usually takes about
While many people associate the flu with fevers, the CDC note that not everyone with the flu will develop a fever.
A weakening immune system in older adults causes them to be
Pneumonia is a serious complication associated with the flu. In some cases, it can lead to death.
Other potentially severe complications of the flu can include:
- encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain
- myocarditis, which is inflammation of a muscle in the heart
- myositis or rhabdomyolysis, which are types of muscle tissue inflammation
- multi-organ failure, such as kidney failure and respiratory failure
People do not always need formal medical treatment for flu.
Those presenting with only mild symptoms may be able to use over-the-counter medications to treat their symptoms. They should then seek medical attention if they start to feel worse.
A doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to the following groups:
- older adults
- people presenting with moderate to severe flu symptoms
- individuals who show signs of flu complications
Healthcare professionals usually recommend that a person takes antiviral medication for a
A person may require hospitalization if they develop any complications.
Flu may spread through tiny droplets when someone talks, coughs, or sneezes. These droplets may land on another person’s nose or mouth, causing them to contract the virus.
A person can also get the virus from touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them and then touching their mouth or nose. However, this is less common.
Duration of transmissibility
A person is
Some individuals may be able to transmit the virus 1 day before symptoms start and up to 5–7 days after they first feel unwell.
Someone with a weakened immune system or a young child may be able to transmit the flu for a more extended period.
Means of prevention
The CDC note that getting vaccinated is the
About 2 weeks after a person receives a flu shot, their body creates antibodies that protect against flu.
The CDC recommend all people over the age of 6 months receive the flu vaccine each year. In rare exceptions, a healthcare professional may recommend against someone receiving the vaccine.
Though the flu vaccine can help prevent serious illness, it may not always prevent a person from getting sick due to flu. A person can take additional steps to help stop the spread of flu,
- staying home when sick
- washing their hands regularly
- avoiding touching their nose, eyes, or mouth
- covering their nose or mouth when coughing or sneezing
- avoiding close contact with others who are unwell
- disinfecting and cleaning surfaces when someone is sick at home, school, or work
Most people over the age of 65
It is best for people in this age group to consider getting a flu vaccination unless a healthcare professional instructs them not to do so, which only happens in rare cases. They also need to avoid contact with people who have the flu and seek medical help if they develop any flu-like symptoms.
A doctor can provide further guidance and appropriate treatment for older individuals who contract the flu.