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Your Questions About the Flu Vaccine

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

People come up with all kinds of excuses to avoid getting the flu vaccine.

"I've had the flu and it's no big deal."

Recommended Related to Adult Vaccines

Vaccines for Travel to India

When you start planning your trip to India and sit down to make a to-do list, put "call doctor for vaccine appointment" at the top of the list. Then don't put it off. According to the CDC, you need to start your immunizations at least four to six weeks before you plan to leave. That way the vaccines will have time to become effective. And you'll also be able to start taking preventive medicines for diseases that don't have vaccines, such as malaria. Here's an overview of the vaccines you may need...

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"The vaccine will give me the flu."

"There are toxic levels of mercury in the vaccine."

If you listen to these misconceptions and don't get your flu vaccine, you could catch the latest circulating influenza strain and spend a week or more sidelined from work and feeling miserable. Even worse, you could get really sick and wind up in the hospital.

Here are a few reasons why you absolutely need toget a flu vaccine this year:

  • Influenza (the flu) circulates all over the world, and it can affect anyone, regardless of their age or health.
  • The flu can lead to complications like pneumonia, ear infections, and sinus infections. It can also worsen existing conditions, like asthma or diabetes.
  • Each year, thousands of people in the U.S. die from the flu and its complications.

Want to know the truth about the flu vaccine? Read through these common questions and answers to learn how it works, whether it's risky, and why you definitely need to get it.

Do I Really Need a Flu Vaccine?

If you're over 6 months old, the CDC says yes, you need to get a flu vaccination at the start of every flu season. Despite the fact that we tend to label any illness that makes us sneeze, shiver, or vomit as "the flu," true influenza isn't a trivial illness. It can do far worse than just keep you home from work or school for a few days.

"Hundreds of thousands of people each year are hospitalized with influenza. Between 3,000 and 40,000 people die during any influenza season, depending on the strain that's circulating," says Jeffrey Duchin, MD. He's chief of the Communicable Disease Epidemiology & Immunization Section at Seattle & King County Public Health, and an associate professor in medicine in the University of Washington Division of Infectious Diseases.

Although young infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic conditions like asthma or heart disease are most susceptible to flu complications (including pneumonia), people of all ages die from the disease each year.

"It's a serious health problem for adults and children. And it's preventable," says Duchin, who is also a member of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). "We have a way for people to avoid unnecessary doctor's visits, to avoid unnecessary antibiotics, and to avoid hospitalization."

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