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Get Your Flu Vaccine: Stay Healthy This Flu Season!

Photo: A father with his children.Getting a flu vaccine is the single best way to protect against the flu. Flu vaccines are available now and you can get your vaccine at many places including your local health department, vaccination clinics, doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, and some schools and workplaces.

Did You Know?

Flu is unpredictable and can be severe.

  • In the United States between 5% and 20% of the population gets the flu each flu season;
  • It's estimated that more than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized from flu-related complications on average each season, including 20,000 children younger than 5 years old; and
  • CDC estimates that flu-associated deaths in the U.S. ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people between 1976 and 2006.

CDC recommends a three-step approach to protect against the flu:

  1. Take time to get a flu vaccine;
  2. Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs (including frequent hand washing and staying home when sick); and
  3. Take flu antiviral drugs when your doctor prescribes them.

Getting a flu vaccine is easy, and it is the first and most important step you can take in protecting yourself and your loved ones from flu. There are any number of places where you can get your vaccine, including your local health department, vaccination clinics, doctors' offices, retail pharmacies, and some schools and workplaces. For a list of flu vaccination clinics near you, please visit the flu vaccine finderExternal Web Site Icon.

Flu vaccines for this season are already available in many communities and CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. Flu seasons are unpredictable and can start early or run late, and the flu vaccine provides protection that lasts through a full flu season. You can get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available in your community.

Prevent Flu Illness

Photo: Healthcare provider.Influenza vaccines are used to prevent flu illness. There are two kinds of flu vaccine: the flu shot and a flu nasal spray vaccine. These vaccines cannot give you the flu because they are made from killed or weakened influenza viruses.

Most people generally do not experience any side effects after getting a flu vaccine. When side effects do occur, they are generally mild and include redness and soreness at the injection site for the flu shot, and occasionally sore throat, runny nose and rarely fever after the nasal spray vaccine. Headache or body aches after vaccination occur rarely. While these symptoms can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, these symptoms are mild and resolve quickly when compared to a bad case of the flu. For more information on side effects from the vaccine, please see thevaccine information statements.

Once vaccinated, the body needs two weeks to produce antibodies for protection against the flu. All adults and most children need only 1 dose of flu vaccine a year, but some children will need 2 doses.

Who Should Get the Seasonal Flu Vaccine?

Phtoo: A familyEveryone! For the first time, all people 6 months and older are recommended for annual influenza vaccination. This year's flu vaccine will protect against three viruses (an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season).

While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it's especially important that people in the following groups get vaccinated, either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications:

  • Pregnant women (any trimester)
  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • People 65 years of age and older
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives, who last flu season seemed to be at higher risk of flu complications
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People who are morbidly obese (Body Mass Index, or BMI, of 40 or greater)
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
    • Health care workers
    • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
    • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)

For the full list of people at high risk of serious flu complications see "People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications"

Types of Flu Vaccines

There are two types of flu vaccine available.

  • The "flu shot" — an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women.
  • The nasal-spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for "live attenuated influenza vaccine" or FluMist®). LAIV is approved for use in healthy* people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.

* "Healthy" indicates persons who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.

Symptoms of Flu

Photo: A mother taking her child's temperature.Symptoms of flu can include:

  • Fever* or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

*It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

These symptoms are usually referred to as "flu-like symptoms." Learn more at "Flu Symptoms & Severity."

 

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