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Flu Vaccine Tip Sheet

Flu season is here. Get seasonal flu vaccine facts with this timely tip sheet.
By
WebMD Medical Reference
Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD

Wondering how you can protect yourself from seasonal flu? Or just weighing the pros and cons of the seasonal flu vaccine? Here are some of the fast facts about flu prevention that you've been looking for.

  • Influenza causes more than 200,000 people in the U.S. to be hospitalized every year. Up to 49,000 people die each year from flu-related causes. Prevention is key.
  • Ideally, you should get the seasonal flu vaccine by Thanksgiving -- the holiday season means hugs and kisses, which help spread the flu virus. However, getting vaccinated with the flu shot makes sense any time during flu season, which may last from September to May.
  • Think the flu vaccine can give you the flu? It can't. The vaccine is made with a dead (flu shot) or weakened form of the flu virus (nasal flu vaccine), which can't give you influenza. The nasal flu vaccine has caused transfer of the virus to others, but the risk of this happening is extremely low.
  • Concern that there's a link between autism and the vaccine preservative thimerosal has prevented some parents from getting their kids vaccinated. Worry no more. Studies have found that there is no link between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism. And if you’re still worried, thimerosal-free flu vaccines are now the standard for children in the U.S. -- and available to adults for the asking.
  • Stuck on the fact that you need to get vaccinated every year? There's a good reason. Flu viruses change, so flu vaccines must change, too. Each year's vaccine is unique, cultivated from the flu strains health officials believe will be most menacing that year.
  • It's long been advised that people with allergies to eggs should not get the flu shot. However, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says the vaccine contains such a low amount of egg protein that it's unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in those with an egg allergy. If you have a severe egg allergy (anaphylaxis), talk to your doctor before getting the flu vaccine. Also, flu vaccines not made with the use of eggs are available.  

  • For those age 65 and older, a high-dose version of the flu vaccine called Fluzone is recommended when available. It may be more effective at protecting the elderly because their immune systems are more fragile.  

  • The CDC now recommends the nasal spray vaccine for healthy children 2 through 8 years old when it is available.

 

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To prevent the flu: