Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even sometimes death. Every year the flu season is different, affecting millions of people and hospitalizing thousands of patients. Some complications of the flu include pneumonia and ear infections.

It can also cause chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma and diabetes to worsen. Flu vaccines help produce antibodies to develop in the body about one to two weeks after vaccinations.

These antibodies provide protection against the flu illness. For people 65 years and older, there are three flu vaccines that are recommended: the Fluzone vaccine, Flublok vaccine and Fluad vaccine.

Anyone six months and older in the United States should be vaccinated with the influenza vaccine every season.

People who should not get the flu vaccine include children younger than six months, people with severe life-threatening allergies to any ingredient in the vaccine and people who have had a severe allergic reaction to the influenza vaccine in the past.

The flu vaccine generally cannot cause the flu illness because the vaccine is made with the flu virus that has been killed or inactivated and is therefore not infectious.

Some of the side effects that can be noted after the flu vaccine include soreness that occurs at the place where the shots were given, headaches, fevers, muscle aches, nausea and fatigue.

One of the most common misconceptions about the flu vaccine is that people think it is better to get sick with the flu than to get the vaccine. The answer is no, influenza can be a serious disease particularly in young children, older adults and people with certain chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes.

Any flu infection can carry a risk of serious complications. Therefore, getting vaccinated is a safer choice than risking illness to obtain immune protection.

Anyone who would like to ask me a medical question relating to the health of older adults can email me at I hope to provide a helpful answer in a future issue of this newspaper.

Disclaimer: The information shared in this column is based on current practice guidelines but is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition

Arvind M. Selvan M.D.