NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Flu shots have always been important for older adults, but with the COVID-19 pandemic still going strong, vaccinations will be essential.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams says this will be the most important flu season in a lifetime.
First, health officials want more people vaccinated. One reason is to avoid confusion between cases of flu and COVID-19.
"So cough, fever, muscle aches, fatigue, all the things that could be easily confused with flu," said Dr. John Peacock, a Main Line Health geriatrician.
Dr. Peacock says keeping flu cases down will also reduce the burden on hospitals dealing with coronavirus and it will spare many from the ravages of flu.
"It's a respiratory virus, but it affects the entire body. It sets up a terrible reaction, an inflammatory reaction that affects virtually every organ," he said.
Influenza can cause inflammation of the heart, pneumonia, kidney failure, muscle issues and more.
"You may still get the flu, but you won't get nearly as sick. And that's a critical thing with the elderly. Because if they do get sick, they're the ones that end up in the hospital," said Dr. Peacock.
And some strains of flu are harder than others on older adults.
Dr. Peacock says coronavirus shutdowns have translated to very little flu in the Southern Hemisphere right now but that doesn't mean it will be a mild season here.
Getting a flu shot in late August, September, or October will protect you until spring.
There are two vaccines designed for seniors: one has a more concentrated dose, while the other has an immune system booster.
Dr. Peacock also adds it's a myth that you can get sick from a flu shot.
"The flu shot stimulates the immune system, and part of the immune response is inflammation and inflammation can make you feel lousy. So we recommend that people take a little Ibuprofen or take a little Tylenol after they get their vaccination," he said.
For more information on Main Line Health's geriatrics specialists, CLICK HERE.