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Flu Shots: It's Not Too Late

Everyone around you snuffling and sneezing? Take heart, there's still time for prevention!
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

It's December and everywhere you look friends and family are down with flu symptoms: fevers, body aches, and fatigue.

If you're still feeling pretty chipper yourself, great! But if you want to hedge your bets, it's good to know that even though flu season is in full swing, it's not too late for the added protection of the flu vaccine.

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Flu viruses change from year to year. So each year, manufacturers develop a new vaccine based on predictions of what strains of  influenza viruses will be around during flu season. In the spring of 2009, the H1N1 virus spread to the U.S. too late to be included in the regular “seasonal vaccine.” So a separate vaccine - the H1N1 flu vaccine -- was developed. For the 2010-2011 flu season, the 2009 H1N1 virus strain is included in the seasonal flu vaccine.

Flu Vaccines: Shots and Mists

The best way to protect yourself against the flu is to get vaccinated, say the experts at the CDC. That means getting a flu shot or the nasal-spray flu vaccine, preferably between October and November.

Yet there's time for prevention, even now. Flu season usually peaks in February -- though it can spike anywhere from November to May. So, getting the flu vaccine later can help protect you and others from down-time with the flu bug. And you can boost the power of prevention by:

  • Scrubbing your hands often
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Exercising most days
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet

 

Flu Shots FAQ

Won't the flu vaccine make me sick?
Have no fear, getting vaccinated against the flu won't give you influenza. The flu shot is made of killed virus; the mist is made of  live, but weakened virus. Both vaccines may produce mild symptoms like muscle aches and a runny nose, but these symptoms are brief and far less severe than the actual flu itself.

I'm pregnant. Should I get the flu shot?
Pregnant women can be particularly vulnerable to flu complications, which include pneumonia, hospitalization, and death.

If you'll be pregnant during flu season, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated. The nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.

Should everyone be vaccinated?
While the experts recommend flu vaccinations for most people, they're not right for everyone.

The nasal spray flu vaccine is only recommended for nonpregnant, healthy people ages 2 through 49.

Flu vaccination may not be suitable for those with certain issues such as severe allergy to eggs, severe reaction to the flu vaccine in the past, history of Guillain-Barre syndrome (a serious neurological condition), or children less than 6 months old. People with moderate-to-severe illness with fever should wait until they recover before getting vaccinated.

Not sure if these limitations apply to you? Give your doctor a call.

Reviewed on October 27, 2010
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