Flu Shots: Your Questions Answered

Even though it is only September, it is time to start thinking about getting a flu shot. Did you know flu outbreaks begin as early as October, though the height of flu season typically does not occur until February? If you have concerns about the flu shot, here are some common questions we have answered for you. Consult with your physician about your specific needs this flu season.  Every one older than 6 months old should consider receiving the flu vaccine.  

Should Pregnant Women Get a Flu Shot?

The CDC recommends that all pregnant women get the flu shot (and not the nasal spray), as the flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. This is due to changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy. Pregnant women who get the flu are also more likely to be hospitalized and could potentially cause harm to their unborn child.
Getting the flu shots has benefits for the baby as well. The CDC reports that when a pregnant mother gets a flu shot, her baby is protected after delivery for up to 6 months.  
At What Age Should Children Get a Flu Shot?

Children 6 months or older are recommended to get the flu shot. Healthy children older than 2 years old can get the nasal spray, if they tolerate that better. Consult with your pediatrician about your child’s options and availability.  

Who Can Opt for the Nasal Spray?

The nasal spray can be an option for anyone ages 2 to 49 who are healthy and not pregnant. If you or your child receives the influenza nasal spray, you should avoid being near anyone who with a compromised immune system (e.g. people receiving chemotherapy, who have a chronic medical condition or who are hospitalized) for at least seven days.

If I haven’t had the flu in several years, do I still need the shot?

Every year the flu shot contains three seasonal influenza viruses. As an inactive vaccine, the flu shot works by protecting your body against the strains of flu expected that season. Even if you have not had the flu for several years, that does not mean you are protected against any previous or new strain of the flu.

What if I get sick after getting the flu shot?

As an inactive vaccine, the flu viruses within the shot have been killed. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. However, some people do have local reactions to the injection, and very rarely develop allergic reactions to the flu shot, as is possible with any vaccination. People with active infections or compromised immune systems should not get the flu shot until they are healthy.

What are the side effects of the flu shot?

Following the answer to the previous question, the flu vaccine does not have the side effect of giving you the flu. Some people do have allergic reactions to the flu shot, as the viruses used in the vaccine are grown in eggs. If you are allergic to eggs, you may have an allergic reaction to the flu shot and should discuss vaccination with your physician. Many people with egg allergies can indeed take the flu vaccine safely. An estimated 5 – 10 percent of people experience mild side effects including headache, a low-grade fever or muscle cramps.