Flu Vaccinations

While it is recommended that everyone receive their annual flu vaccination, it is especially important for you to safeguard against the flu (influenza) if you are considered at a higher risk for serious flu complications.

Pregnant women, senior citizens, young children and those with specific and chronic health conditions are far more likely to experience serious and potentially life threatening complications from the flu such as pneumonia, inflammation of the brain and heart, worsening of existing health conditions and sepsis, which is a life threatening inflammatory condition. It is important to vaccinate against influenza each year, by the end of October if you can, as the flu virus adapts and changes each year, requiring you to keep up on a vaccination in order to remain protected against illness. While there is a chance of a few mild side effects, it is important to know that the flu vaccine has never caused the flu. To learn more about flu vaccinations including why they are important, who should get a vaccination, the potential side effects and where you can get a vaccination, review the sections that have been provided below.

What is the Flu?

Caused by a virus, the flu (also known as influenza) is far worse than the common cold. While it can cause cold-like symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue — it can also lead to far more serious conditions, especially in the elderly, infants and children. Left untreated, the flu can lead to more serious complications such as:

  • Pneumonia, a serious lung infection.
  • The worsening of long-term health conditions such as heart failure and asthma.
  • Inflammation of the brain or heart.
  • Sepsis, which is a life-threatening inflammatory condition.

It is also worth knowing that not everyone who contracts the flu will have a fever. Some individuals, particularly children, may also throw up or experience diarrhea while afflicted with influenza.

The flu is very contagious, so it can easily spread from one person to the next. In fact, not only is the flu spread when someone with the flu coughs, sneezes or talks, you can get the flu from touching a surface that someone with the flu had recently touched. You may even spread the flu around before you realize you are sick as you will be contagious before symptoms appear.

Why is the Flu Vaccine Important?

The flu vaccine is important in order to prevent yourself from experiencing serious complications of the flu. While most cases of the flu are relatively mild, the flu can turn serious and even deadly, especially in babies, young children, senior citizens, pregnant women and individuals who have certain health conditions.

By getting vaccinated each year, you can substantially reduce your odds of getting the flu. It is important to keep in mind that you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine, contrary to what you may have heard. Not only does the flu vaccine protect you from the flu, but it protects the people around you as there are some individuals who are not eligible to receive it and thus rely on their communities receiving vaccinations.

Who Needs to Get the Flu Vaccine?

It is recommended that children, teens, adults and infants over six months of age receive a flu vaccination each year as part of their routine vaccinations. Even if you received a vaccination last year, it is important to still have a vaccine administered this year. This is due to the fact that flu viruses are constantly changing, making an updated vaccination imperative. Additionally, immunity decreases over time. While it is recommended that all eligible people receive a flu vaccination, it is especially important to ensure that you receive a vaccination if you are considered high risk. People who are high risk for complications from influenza include:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Senior citizens who are 65 years of age and older.
  • Children who are younger than five years, and especially those that are younger than two.
  • Anyone with long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or cancer.

It is important to try to get a flu vaccination before the end of October as it can take up to two weeks after a vaccination for your body to begin to develop an immunity to influenza.

Who Should Not Obtain the Flu Vaccine?

While most United States citizens are eligible to receive the flu vaccine, there are people that should not get the vaccination. Talk to your doctor about the flu vaccine if you have:

  • Had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any dose of the flu vaccine or any ingredients within the vaccine, such as eggs or gelatin.
  • Had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an immune disorder

Additionally, it is worth knowing that if you are sick, it is recommended that you wait to be vaccinated until after you are feeling better. Lastly, children who are under the age of six months are not eligible for the flu vaccine.

The Side Effects of the Flu Vaccine

Side effects are rare after receiving the flu vaccine, but they do happen. However, side effects are generally mild and they go away on their own after a few short days. Remember, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu, but you may experience cold like symptoms such as:

  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Upset stomach

Additionally, you may experience redness, pain or swelling at the injection site. Serious side effects from the flu are very rare, but as with any medication, there is a very small chance that your flu vaccination could lead to serious reactions.

Where to Get the Flu Vaccine

Getting the flu vaccine is more convenient than ever before as there are a variety of ways that you can obtain a vaccination. If you have a medical physician that you see on a regular basis, such as a family doctor, you can schedule an appointment to have your flu vaccine administered. Additionally, most local pharmacies will offer vaccinations for adults and children. In fact, pharmacies that offer rewards programs where you can earn on your prescriptions will often advertise additional savings or rewards should you choose to get your vaccine from that particular pharmacy. Health centers are another viable option as these federally funded centers provide a variety of health care services, including vaccinations. Health centers often offer sliding fees based upon income if you do not have health insurance. Lastly, you can also visit your state and local health departments in order to find locations near you that offer low-cost flu vaccinations.

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