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What does the flu shot protect against?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and, at times, it can lead to death.

Who should get the flu shot?

Most people should get the flu shot. For some people, it is especially important. People who are at high risk or have certain health problems need to get a flu shot each year. People at high risk for the flu include:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Children younger than 2 years of age.
  • Adults over age 65.
  • Adults and children with conditions that could cause breathing problems.
  • People who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
  • Caregivers of high-risk children who are less than 6 months of age. (Children younger than 6 months of age are too young to get a flu shot.)

Adults and children who have the following health problems should also get a flu shot:

  • Long-term lung problems or problems that make it harder to breathe.
  • Asthma.
  • Heart problems (except high blood pressure).
  • Kidney disease.
  • Liver, blood, or metabolic problems.
  • Sickle cell disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Severe obesity.
  • Adults and children who have weak immune systems caused by medicines or HIV.

Who should not get the flu shot?

Children younger than 6 months of age should not get the flu shot. The flu vaccine is not approved for use in this age group.
Some people should talk to their doctor before getting a shot. They are:

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
  • People who have had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past
  • People who developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting a flu shot in the past
  • People who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated until their symptoms lessen

If you have questions about whether you should get a flu shot, ask your doctor.

When should I get the flu shot?

You should get a flu shot each year beginning in September, or as soon as the shot is available. The earlier you get your flu shot, the sooner you are protected from the flu virus.

What are symptoms of the flu?

People who have the flu often feel some or all of the following:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with flu will have a fever) 
  • Cough 
  • Sore throat 
  • Runny or stuffy nose 
  • Muscle or body aches 
  • Headaches 
  • Fatigue (very tired) 
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)

How do I prevent my family from catching the flu?

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu shot each year.  You should also:

  • Wash your hands often or use an alcohol hand rub.
  • Don't touch your nose, mouth and eyes. This is how viruses get into your body. 
  • Stay away from people who are sick. 
  • Stay home from work, school and errand if you are sick. 
  • Practice a healthy lifestyle. Get plenty of sleep, regular exercise, drink lots of water, and eat healthy foods. 
  • Cover your mouth when you cough. Cough into a tissue or into your sleeve.

Call your doctor or your local health department to see when you can get your flu shot.