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Influenza (Seasonal Flu) - Prevention

You can help prevent influenza by getting immunized with an influenza vaccine each year as soon as it's available.

Yearly immunization with the inactivated influenza vaccine(What is a PDF document?) (flu shot) or the nasal spray flu vaccine(What is a PDF document?) prevents flu infection and its complications in most people.

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests, at no cost to you. Learn more.

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Most healthy people ages 2 through 49 years can choose to get the nasal spray form of the vaccine (such as FluMist) instead of the flu shot. The nasal spray vaccine contains components of live viruses, so it should not be given to people who have certain long-term (chronic) health conditions, such as heart or lung problems. Close contacts of these people in high-risk categories can be given either type of vaccine, with one rare exception. Immunization with the inactivated virus (flu shot) is preferred over the nasal spray vaccine for close contacts of people with severely impaired immune systems during times when a protected environment is needed. This avoids the risk of transmitting an active flu virus from the nasal spray vaccine. If the nasal spray vaccine is used, contact with anyone in this high-risk group should be avoided for 7 days. For close contacts of people in all other high-risk categories, vaccination with either the flu shot or the nasal spray is considered safe.

You should not get the nasal spray if you:

  • Have heart disease.
  • Have lung disease, including asthma.
  • Have diabetes or kidney disease.
  • Have a disease or take a medicine that causes problems with your immune system.
  • Have a condition (such as a seizure disorder or cerebral palsy) that can cause breathing or swallowing problems.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Are younger than age 20 and you take aspirin or products with aspirin in them.

Even if a flu vaccine does not prevent the flu, it can reduce the severity of flu symptoms and decrease the risk of complications. Studies have found that the flu shot results in fewer days missed from work and fewer visits to a doctor for respiratory infections, and it reduces the number of people who develop complications from the flu, such as pneumonia.2 And the flu vaccine can help protect the babies of women who got the vaccine while they were pregnant.3, 4

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