The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of six months get a flu shot every year. This is especially important for older adults because their immune systems are weaker. As a result, they are more likely to get the flu and develop a more serious case of it. In some cases, the flu can even be deadly. If your aging relative is reluctant to get a flu shot, perhaps knowing how vaccines work can ease any fears they may have.
How the Immune System Works
Before getting into how the flu vaccine works, it can be helpful to first understand how the immune system works. When bacteria or viruses get into the body, the immune system produces white blood cells to fight the infection. These white blood cells target antigens. Antigens are a byproduct of the germ that is making the body sick. When a white blood cell finds an antigen, it attaches itself to the antigen and prevents it from multiplying and making the body even sicker. Once the white blood cells have beaten the infection, the immune system remembers what the antigen looked like, so it can fight it again if it occurs.
How Flu Vaccines Work
Vaccines use antigens to simulate an infection and nudge the body into making antibodies. In the case of the flu vaccine, it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to form. Once they do, they protect the body against infection from the flu viruses that are contained in the vaccine.
One of the worries people often have about the flu vaccine is that it will cause them to get the flu. However, that’s impossible. This misconception likely comes from the fact that the flu shot takes two weeks to be effective. Sometimes people are infected with the flu before the antibodies have a chance to form, so people assume they got the flu from the shot itself. The truth is that it’s not possible to get the flu from the vaccine because the vaccine uses an inactive form of the virus that isn’t capable of causing an infection.
Another reason people don’t get an annual flu shot is because they don’t understand why it is needed yearly. After all, other vaccines aren’t needed every year. Most of them require just one or two shots in a lifetime. The reason the flu vaccine is an annual shot is because it is reformulated each year to respond to the viruses that are expected to be most common that year. Therefore, it responds to different antigens than it did the year before.
If your aging relative hasn’t gotten their flu vaccine yet, an elder care provider can help them to get it. An elder care provider can assist them to make an appointment for the shot. On the day of the shot, the elder care provider can drive them to the clinic and back home afterward. They can also sit with the senior after having the vaccine to watch for any side effects, such as pain at the site of the shot, which can be eased using an ice pack and a painkiller.
If you or an aging loved-one is considering Elder Care in Neosho, MO please contact the caring staff at Adelmo Family Care today at (417) 206-4576.