Flu Shot

Flu shot: Avoiding influenza (Schaumburg Immediate Care)

Getting a flu shot often protects you from coming down with the flu. And while the flu shot doesn’t always provide total protection, it’s still worth getting.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the vaccines that will be available this fall to protect people against several seasonal flu (influenza) viruses expected to be in circulation this fall and winter.

This annual flu shot won’t contain protection against the pandemic swine flu (novel H1N1) virus. A separate vaccine has been developed for the swine flu virus.

Influenza is a respiratory infection that sickens millions of people each year and can cause serious complications, especially in children and older adults. Fortunately, the flu vaccine — available in the form of a flu shot or a nasal spray — offers protection against the flu.

Flu vaccine availability (Schaumburg Immediate Care)

The flu vaccine is generally offered between September and mid-November, which is typically before the late-fall to early winter start of flu season. However, getting a flu shot even later in the flu season may still protect you. It takes up to two weeks to build immunity following a flu shot.

Get vaccinated every year (Schaumburg Immediate Care)

You need annual flu protection because the influenza virus changes from year to year. The flu vaccine you got last year wasn’t designed to fight the virus strains in circulation this flu season.

Influenza viruses mutate so quickly that they can render one season’s vaccine ineffective by the next season. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee meets early in the year to estimate which strains of influenza virus will be most prevalent during the upcoming flu season, and manufacturers produce vaccine based on those recommendations.

Flu vaccine recipients (Schaumburg Immediate Care)

Most people who want to reduce the risk of getting influenza can get a flu shot. The CDC recommends the flu vaccine each year if you:
Are age 6 months up to 19 years
Are pregnant
Are 50 years old or older
Have a chronic medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or heart, kidney or lung disease
Have a weakened immune system such as from some medications or HIV infection
Are a resident of a nursing home or other long term care facility
Are a child care worker or health care worker or live with or care for someone at high risk of complications from the flu

Flu vaccine Non-recipients (Schaumburg Immediate Care)

Don’t get a flu shot if you:
Have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past.
Are allergic to chicken eggs.
Developed Guillain-Barre syndrome, a serious autoimmune disease affecting the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, within six weeks of receiving the vaccine in the past. People who have experienced Guillain-Barre after the flu vaccine are at higher risk than are others of developing it again.
Have a fever. Wait until your symptoms improve before getting vaccinated.

Flu vaccine options (Schaumburg Immediate Care)

The flu vaccine comes in two forms:
A shot. A flu shot contains an inactivated vaccine made of killed virus. The injection is usually given in the arm. Because the viruses in the vaccine are killed (inactivated), the shot won’t cause you to get the flu, but it will enable your body to develop the antibodies necessary to ward off influenza viruses. You may have a slight reaction to the shot, such as soreness at the injection site, mild muscle ache or fever. Reactions usually last one to two days and are more likely to occur in children who have never been exposed to flu virus.
A nasal spray. Administered through your nose, the nasal spray vaccine (FluMist) consists of a low dose of live, but weakened, flu viruses. The vaccine doesn’t cause the flu, but it does prompt an immune response in your nose and upper airways as well as throughout your body.

Differences between the two types of flu vaccine (Schaumburg Immediate Care)

Nasal spray:
Administered through a spray — you won’t need an injection
Contains weakened live viruses that won’t give you the flu but that can, in rare cases, be transmitted to others
Approved for healthy people ages 2 years to 49 years
Given only to nonpregnant healthy people, not to those with chronic medical conditions, suppressed immune systems or to children and adolescents receiving aspirin therapy
May not be covered by insurance
Flu Shot:
Administered through a needle ” you’ll need an injection
Contains killed viruses ” you can’t pass the flu along to anyone else
Approved for use in people 6 months of age and older
Can be used in people at increased risk of flu-related complications, including pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions
May be available free to the uninsured and is usually covered by insurance
Both the flu shot and the nasal spray help protect you from influenza. But there are differences to consider before deciding between the two.

What kind of protection does the flu vaccine offer? (Schaumburg Immediate Care)

According to the CDC, when the match between flu vaccine and circulating strains of flu virus is close, a flu shot is between 70 and 90 percent effective in warding off influenza in healthy people under age 65.
The flu vaccine is less effective:
When the vaccine isn’t a close match to the type of flu viruses circulating in the community
In people over the age of 65
In people with compromised immune systems

Children need two doses of the flu vaccine. (Schaumburg Immediate Care)

Children younger than 9 years old require two doses of the flu vaccine if it’s the first time they’ve been vaccinated for influenza. That’s because children don’t develop an adequate antibody level the first time they get the vaccine. Antibodies help fight the virus if it enters your child’s system. If a flu vaccine shortage were to occur and your child couldn’t get two doses of vaccine, one dose might still offer some protection.

I heard the flu shot isn’t very effective for older adults. Is it worth getting vaccinated if you’re over 65?

If you’re over age 65, the vaccine doesn’t offer as much protection as it would to someone younger because older adults produce fewer antibodies in response to the virus. Still, the vaccine offers more protection than does skipping the shot altogether. More important, the flu vaccine decreases the risk of flu-related complications ” especially pneumonia, heart attack, stroke and death ” to which older adults are especially vulnerable.

Can I lower my risk of the flu without getting a flu shot? (Schaumburg Immediate Care)

With or without a flu shot, you can take steps to help protect yourself from the flu and other viruses. Good hygiene remains your primary defense against contagious illnesses.
Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth whenever possible.
Avoid crowds when the flu is most prevalent in your area.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.