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Your Best Shot for Avoiding the Flu

by -

Person getting flu shot

Flu season is just around the corner, but it doesn't have to be flu season for you. The most effective way to stay flu-free is to get vaccinated every year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone age 6 months and older get the influenza vaccine. It's most important for high-risk groups, such as children, pregnant women and adults 65 years of age and older.

The injectable vaccine contains a killed form of several types of flu viruses. Nearly everyone can safely get a flu shot.

However, an alternative to the shot is a nasal spray that contains the weakened live virus. This is safe for healthy, non-pregnant people between 2 and 49 years old.

Do Flu Shots Actually Work?

Flu viruses change quickly, so each year the vaccine is a little different in order to combat the virus.

When the match between the vaccine and circulating strains is close, the flu shot prevents seasonal influenza in about 90 percent of healthy people younger than 65. The vaccine is still close to 65 percent effective even in years in which the vaccine strains don't match.

If you do get the flu, your symptoms may be milder if you've had the vaccine.

Does the Vaccine Cause the Flu?

You can't get the flu from the flu vaccine. However, you may have mild fever, chills or aches for a very brief period after receiving the vaccination, but this is a sign your body is making antibodies against the flu — it is not the flu.

Other illnesses, such as the common cold, can produce flu-like symptoms. While you do feel sick, you don't actually have the flu.

Flu shots take about two weeks to become fully effective, and if you're exposed to the virus during this time frame, you might catch the flu. It's important to get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available each year.

The nasal spray does not cause the flu either. However, because it contains live viruses, there is a chance you could transmit the flu to others.

Who Is Most Vulnerable?

Vaccination is especially important for people who are more likely to be exposed to flu viruses:

  • Schoolchildren
  • Healthcare workers
  • Nursing home residents

Certain people have a high risk of developing other health problems from the flu. This includes:

  • Adults aged 50 and older — especially those over 65
  • Young children
  • People with chronic conditions, such heart disease, kidney disease, breathing problems or diabetes

Women who are pregnant — or trying to conceive — should get the flu shot but not the nasal spray. The flu shot can help protect the baby as well. This is important because babies cannot have the flu shot until they are 6 months old.

Is the Flu Vaccine Safe?

The influenza vaccine is very safe and has been given since 1943.

The most common side effects include soreness, redness or swelling at the site of the injection. These reactions are temporary and occur in 15-20 percent of recipients. Less than 1 percent of recipients of either form of vaccine develop symptoms such as fever, chills and muscle aches for 1 to 2 days following the vaccination. These symptoms are more likely to occur in a person who has never been exposed to the influenza virus or vaccine.

Serious adverse reactions to either vaccine are very rare.

People with severe egg allergies, have experienced a severe allergic reaction or Guillain-Barre syndrome after a previous vaccination should not receive the flu shot or mist.

Other Ways to Avoid Getting Sick

Regardless of whether you've had the flu vaccine, it's always a good idea to take common sense measures to avoid spreading germs.

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Cover your face when you cough or sneeze, and throw away used tissue.
  • Limit interaction with sick people.
  • Stay home from work or school if you do get sick.


To find a provider, visit UnityPoint Clinic today.