A Simple Way to Keep the Flu Away
You can prevent the flu this season by taking one simple step: Get a flu vaccine.
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated.
Unfortunately, some people think that getting a flu vaccine is too much trouble or
costs too much. Or they are sure that a flu shot will make them sick. Or it will make
them more likely to catch the flu.
The flu is also called seasonal influenza. It is caused by one of several strains
of the flu virus (type A or B) that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu makes
life miserable for a week or two for many people. It is deadly for some. Flu season
can start as early as October. It peaks anywhere from late December to early April.
Your best defense against the flu is to get vaccinated.
The flu vaccine is usually given by shot, most often into a muscle in the arm.
This form of the vaccine has killed virus. Itis approved for most people older
than 6 months of age. CDC recommends that some children get 2 full doses 1 month
apart. This applies to children ages 6 months to 8 years who have never been
vaccinated or got only one dose of vaccine.
A nasal spray may also be given for the 2018-2019 flu season. It is made of live
but weakened flu virus. It is for healthy children 2 years or older who don't
get the flu shot.
A needle-free device called a jet injector can give a 2-dose flu vaccine through
the skin. This may be an option for people 18 to 64 years old.
A flu vaccine is especially important for people who are more likely to have problems
if they get the flu. This includes:
Children younger than 5 years, and especially younger than 2 years
People 65 years and older
Those with long-term (chronic) health conditions
Anyone who lives in a nursing home or care facility
Pregnant women and women who have had a baby in the last 2 weeks
American Indians and Alaska Natives
Even if you don't fall into one of the above groups, you should still get the vaccine
if you want to prevent the flu and its symptoms.
Talk with your healthcare provider first
Some people shouldn't be vaccinated for the flu before talking with their healthcare
provider, the CDC says. These are reasons to talk with your healthcare provider:
You have a severe allergy such as an anaphylactic reaction to chicken eggs.
You developed Guillain-Barré syndrome in the 6 weeks after getting a flu shot
in the past.
You currently have an illness with a fever. Wait until symptoms get better before
getting the vaccine.
Children younger than 6 months of age should not be vaccinated against the flu. Flu
vaccines haven't been approved for that age group.
Other prevention steps
Flu viruses are spread by contact with droplets sneezed or coughed from an infected
person. Breathing in the droplets is the most common way to get the flu. Touching
objects on which droplets have landed also infects many people. You can spread the
virus to others before you feel sick yourself. The CDC says you are contagious a day
before symptoms start and up to 5 days afterward.
You can protect yourself against the flu by doing simple things like washing your
hands before eating and not putting your hands near your face or in your mouth. Washing
hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water works fine. If soap and water are
not available, rub your hands with an alcohol-based hand cleaner. If someone in your
family has the flu, you can help prevent it from spreading by cleaning surfaces with
a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.
Rooting out rumors
Don't believe the rumor that a flu shot can give you even a mild case of the flu.
It's impossible. The vaccine does not contain a form of the flu virus that can give
you the flu. The injected form of the vaccine is made from pieces of dead flu virus
cells. After getting the vaccine, some people have mild flu-like symptoms as a side
effect. This is not the same thing as having the flu.
When you get the flu vaccine, your body reacts and makes antibodies that give you
immunity against the virus.
The main reason you should be revaccinated each year is that the flu virus is constantly
changing into new strains. Each year the CDC tries to figure out which flu strains
will have the biggest effect. The CDC works with vaccine makers to create the specific
vaccine that will fight the predicted strains for that year.
If you are concerned about the cost of a flu vaccine, check with your local health
department for places near you where free flu shots are given. Many insurers also
cover flu vaccines at no cost to their members.