You see the signs at your pharmacy, doctor's office, maybe even at work: "Get Your Flu Shot." But do you really need one?
Yes, you do. The CDC says that everyone over 6 months old should get a flu vaccine -- even if you’ve never had the flu.
It’s really important to get a flu shot if you:
- Have asthma
- Have diabetes
- Have heart or lung disease
- Are pregnant
- Are 65 or older
- Live with or take care of someone at high risk
Flu can hit these people hard. It can turn into pneumonia or cause other medical problems.
Why Get Vaccinated?
Even if you're super healthy, your co-workers, friends, or family may not be. Getting vaccinated protects you and them from catching and spreading the flu.
What's in the Flu Vaccine?
The flu vaccine is made of dead flu viruses. Since they're dead, you can’t catch the flu from them.
When you get a vaccine, your body learns what the flu looks like, so it can fight the illness. It takes about 2 weeks for your body to be ready to fight.
So how can you get a vaccine and still get the flu? Each year, scientists find the three or four types of flu that they think will be the most widespread and dangerous next year. Those dead viruses are put in flu vaccines. So while the flu vaccine can protect you from what scientists think will be the worst and most common flu types, it doesn’t protect you from all of them.
When Should You Get Vaccinated?
Flu season generally runs from November through March. Get the flu vaccine as soon as you can to protect yourself.
You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving. The earlier you get a vaccine, the sooner you're protected. Also, know that it’s never too late in the season to get a vaccine.
Which Vaccine Is Right for You?
- Regular flu shot. This is the shot most people are familiar with. You get the shot in the upper arm or shoulder. You can get it even if you have a long-lasting medical condition like diabetes.
- Intradermal flu shot. Don't like needles? This vaccine may be for you. It uses a much smaller needle that only goes into the skin, not into the muscle like a regular flu shot. It works as well as the regular flu shot, and it's OK for people ages 18-64.
- High-dose flu shot. If you're 65 or older, this option is for you. Older people have a harder time fighting off the flu. This vaccine gives you a larger dose for stronger protection.
- Nasal-spray flu vaccine. No needles here -- you breathe the vaccine in through your nose. This is an option if you're healthy, not pregnant, and between the ages of 2 and 49. The CDC recommends the nasal spray flu vaccine over the flu shot for children 2 to 8 years old, because recent studies have shown the spray may work better in this age group. Unlike the flu shot, it has live viruses, but they're weak and are not likely to give you the flu.