Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Cold & flu health centre

Select a topic to explore more.
Select An Article

Flu in older adults

Flu can be a serious illness for older people, which is why the NHS offers free annual flu jabs for over 65s.

Flu complications in older adults include bronchitis and pneumonia, which may need the person to be admitted to hospital for treatment.

How can older adults tell if they have the flu?

The symptoms of flu in older adults are pretty much the same as in other age groups. They may include:

Do older adults get gastrointestinal problems with the flu?

Although more common in children, older adults sometimes suffer from stomach symptoms, like nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, with the seasonal flu. These symptoms seem to be more common with swine flu.

What flu complications should older adults watch for?

Complications of flu in elderly people may include:

It's important to seek medical advice immediately if you have any of these flu complications. The sooner you start medical treatment, the faster it can work to treat the more serious symptoms.

How can older adults prevent getting the flu?

The best way to prevent the seasonal flu is to get an annual flu vaccination.

Getting a seasonal flu jab is a very smart idea. It reduces hospital admission by about 70% and death by about 85% among older adults who do not live in nursing homes, according to the NHS. Among nursing home residents, the flu jab does the following:

  • Reduces the risk of hospitalisation by about 50%
  • Reduces the risk of pneumonia by about 60%
  • Reduces the risk of death by 75% to 80%

Keep in mind that the seasonal flu viruses change each year, so older adults need to get a new flu jab each autumn.

If you are over the age of 65 you can also have the pneumococcal vaccine (also known as the "pneumo jab") to protect you against serious forms of pneumococcal infection. You won't need it each year and for most it's a one-off vaccination. Contact your GP for more information.

When should older adults get flu jabs to prevent flu and flu complications?

The flu season can begin as early as October and last until May. It's recommended that people get a flu jab in October or November so the body has a chance to build up immunity to the flu virus. It takes two weeks for the flu jab to start working. Still, if you miss the early flu jabs, getting a flu jab in December is wise.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Stay informed

Sign up for BootsWebMD's free newsletters.
Sign Up Now!

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

mature woman
Go for the glow!
avacado on whole wheat crackers
Plenty of healthy options
bowl of soup
Small changes that lead to weight loss
baby eating from spoon
What to feed your baby in the first year
cold sore
How to cope with cold sores
toddler doodling
What to expect in your child's second year
bain illustration
Best foods for your brain
bucket with cleaning supplies in it
Cleaning for a healthy home
mother and child
Could your baby be allergic to milk?
woman using moisturizer
Treating dry skin in winter