Millions of people get the flu each year. The flu is worse than the common cold and can bring symptoms like fever, chills, aches, sore throat, cough, and fatigue. It can cause infections of the ears and nose passages. It can even bring serious problems like pneumonia and inflammatory conditions. But there is a way we can help protect ourselves against this virus. Almost everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine each year.1
Dec. 1 to 7 is National Influenza Vaccination Week. December is not too late to get your flu shot! Receiving a flu vaccine lowers your chance of getting the flu by about half. The flu shot is not only the best way to help protect yourself against the flu — it also helps protect those dear to you. If you spend time with young children or older adults, who are more vulnerable to the flu, getting a flu shot each year is very important.1
Who should get the flu shot?
Almost everyone age 6 months and older should get a new flu vaccine each year. The virus that causes the flu changes over time, so researchers develop a new vaccine every year to keep pace. Each year’s vaccine extends our protection against older flu viruses, and helps protect us against new ones.1
Some people are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of the flu. They have more risk of developing complications from getting sick with the flu. For these people, it’s especially important to get a flu shot each year. They include:1
Children younger than age 5
Adults age 65 and older
People with long-term health conditions, like asthma, diabetes or cancer
Who should not get the flu shot?
Children who are younger than 6 months old should not yet get a flu shot. Also, anyone who is currently sick may need to wait until they return to health before getting the vaccine.1
If you have had an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine in the past, or you are allergic to eggs or gelatin, talk with your primary care provider (PCP) before getting the vaccine. Also talk with your PCP if you have had Guillain-Barré syndrome. This is a disorder of the immune system.1
Myth or Fact? Truths About the Flu
Myth or fact? Flu vaccines can cause the flu.
Myth! What’s true is that a flu vaccine can leave some people with side effects, which are most often mild. They are not the flu itself. These side effects include:1
Pain, swelling, or redness in the place of the shot
Myth or fact? It’s better to get the flu than a flu shot.
Myth! It’s safer to get a flu vaccine than to risk serious health problems from getting the flu. Any person with the flu has some risk of developing a health complication. These can become serious enough to cause a hospital stay or death. Of all people, young children, older adults, and people with some long-term health conditions have the most risk of the flu becoming serious.2
Myth or fact? Stomach flu is different from the flu.
Fact! The flu is a respiratory illness. But some people say “stomach flu” to refer to sickness with digestive symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Many different germs, like viruses, bacteria, and parasites can cause these digestive symptoms. It’s rare that these symptoms come from having the flu virus.2
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The information in this document is to help you learn more about this topic. It is not to take the place of your health care provider. If you have questions, talk with your health care provider. If you think you need to see your health care provider because of something you have read in this information, please contact your health care provider. Never stop or wait to get medical attention because of something you have read in this material.
“Flu (Influenza),” Vaccines.gov, https://www.vaccines.gov/diseases/flu.
“Misconceptions About Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/misconceptions.htm.
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