When it comes to the flu vaccine, the question for almost everyone shouldn't be if you should get it, but how you should get it.
There are two options: the flu shot and the nasal spray FluMist. Most years, both offer about the same level of protection, but some people are better suited for the shot, while others do better with the spray.
Recommendations on how to get the flu vaccine can change from year to year.
The bottom line? Your doctor will let you know which type is better for you.
The Flu Shot
This vaccine is usually injected into your upper arm. It's made from dead influenza virus and can't give you the flu.
Side effects: They're usually minor and only last a day or two. The most common one is soreness in the arm. Less common symptoms are mild fever and achiness.
Who can get the flu shot: Adults and children ages 6 months and up
Who shouldn't get the flu shot:
- Babies less than 6 months old
- Anyone who got Guillain-Barre syndrome (when your body’s immune system attacks your nerves) within 6 weeks of getting a flu vaccine
- People with life-threatening allergies to any ingredient in the vaccine
You may have heard that people with allergies to eggs shouldn't get the flu shot. But the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says the vaccine has such a low amount of egg protein that it's unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. If you have a severe egg allergy, talk to your doctor or pharmacist first. There are flu vaccines that have no egg protein.
Other flu shot options are:
Intradermal shots. These use a much smaller needle. It only goes into the top layer of your skin instead of down into the muscle. It may be a good choice for someone who doesn't like needles, but shouldn't get the spray. It's available for those between the ages of 18 and 64.
High-dose flu shots. These vaccines can better protect people with weakened immune systems. They're recommended for those ages 65 and older.
If you don’t feel well, you should talk to your doctor about delaying your shot until you feel better.
Pros: The flu shot is available for babies 6 months and older. It’s considered safe for a larger age group than the nasal vaccine.
Cons: Many people don’t like to get shots.