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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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The Flu Vaccine: Get the Facts

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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:

  • High fever
  • Hoarseness
  • Weakness
  • Paleness
  • Dizziness
  • Racing heart
  • Trouble breathing
  • Hives
  • Swelling around the lips or eyes 
  • Changes in behavior

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on November 12, 2015
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