The Flu Vaccine: Get the Facts

Flu” is a little word that gets passed around a lot these days. It’s also a big disease that you should take seriously. In 2013, more than 3,600 people died from it.

To protect yourself and stop the spread, you need a flu vaccine. Learn what it is and when to get it to help keep your family flu-free.

The Flu Vaccine: What Is It?

It’s a shot that protects you from the flu virus. You normally get it in your arm, but you can also get it as a nasal spray. It’s made from the three or four flu viruses that are most likely to make you sick during the upcoming year.

Who Should Get It?

Almost everyone 6 months of age and older.

Some people are more at risk of getting very sick from complications of the flu than others. These groups should be sure to get a flu shot each year:

  • Children, especially from 6 months of age to the age of 5
  • Pregnant women
  • Seniors over age 65
  • People with existing health conditions
  • Travelers and people living abroad

The following people should not get a flu shot:

  • Children under 6 months old
  • People who are very allergic to the flu shot or any of its ingredients

Talk to your doctor before you get the shot if you have any of these symptoms:

  • An allergy to eggs or any of the other ingredients in the vaccine
  • A history of Guillian-Barre syndrome
  • If you’re just not feeling well

When Should I Get It?

As soon as they become available, by October, if possible. It’s best to get the vaccine before the flu season starts. But you can still get it in January or even later.

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Types of Flu Vaccine

There are many. Ask your doctor which one will work best for you.

The standard flu vaccine protects you from three different flu viruses. You get this shot in your muscle. If you don’t like needles, your doctor may be able to use a jet injector to give it to you. It’s a high-pressure tool that squirts the medicine into your skin. If you’re age 65 or older, you can get a high-dose flu vaccine. It’s four times stronger than the regular flu shot.

Another type of flu vaccine protects against four different viruses. You can get it as a shot. It also comes as a nasal spray. Healthy people ages 2 through 49 can get take the spray. The intradermal flu shot is a very small needle that goes into your skin. You can get this if you’re between ages 18 and 64.

Talk to your doctor to see which vaccine is best for you.

Does It Work?

Yes. It takes about 2 weeks for the vaccine to kick in.

There’s still a chance you could get the flu after you get vaccinated. That depends on many things, like your age and how healthy you are before you get a shot. It also depends on how closely the vaccine “matches” the flu strain that is going around. Even if you do get sick, there’s a good chance your illness will be milder.

Forget what you might’ve heard: You can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine. But you may have side effects that mimic cold or flu symptoms. Some of these are:

  • Soreness or swelling at the point of injection
  • Aching
  • Nausea
  • Slight fever

The nasal spray can also cause runny nose, headache, vomiting, fever, wheezing, and muscle aches.

Call 911 if you have any of the following symptoms. They can be a sign of a severe reaction:

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 12, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “Seasonal Flu Shot,” “Vaccination: Who Should Do It, Who Should Not and Who Should Take Precautions,” “Flu Vaccination by Jet Injector,” “Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine,” “Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine,” “Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine.”

Vaccines.gov: “Influenza (Flu).”

Flu.gov: “Who’s at Risk?”

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