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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.

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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(What is a PDF document?) 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:

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

In spite of these results, many people choose not to get a flu vaccine. Some do not get the vaccine because of myths they believe about the flu or the vaccines. These include beliefs that the flu is a minor illness or that the vaccine causes the flu. The shot may cause side effects, such as soreness or fever, but they are usually minor and do not last long. And a type of flu shot (Fluzone Intradermal) is available that uses a much smaller needle than a regular flu shot. Also, it is injected into the skin instead of into a muscle. This usually causes less discomfort at the time of the shot. People 18 to 64 years old can get this shot. But it may not be available everywhere.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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