What is the best way to protect myself and my family from the flu?
Everyone 6 months of age or older should get the flu vaccine as soon as it is available in your area.
What everyday steps can I take to stop the spread of germs?
There are steps you can take in your daily life to help protect you from getting the flu.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
Are there medications I can take to prevent getting the flu?
If you are healthy but exposed to a person with the flu, antiviral drugs can prevent you from getting sick. The sooner you are treated with an antiviral, the more likely it will prevent the flu. Antiviral drugs are 70% to 90% effective at preventing the flu. Talk to your health care provider if you think you need antiviral drugs.
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine. Seasonal flu vaccines have a very good safety track record.
- The flu vaccine is available by shot or nasal spray.
- Get your flu shot or spray as soon as the vaccine is available in your area.
- It is especially important to get the vaccine if you, someone you live with, or someone you care for is at high risk of complications from the flu.
- Mild reactions such as soreness, headaches, and fever are common side effects of the flu vaccine.
- If you experience a severe reaction such as difficulty breathing, hives, or facial swelling, seek medical attention immediately.
What does the 2012-2013 flu vaccine protect against?
Flu vaccines are designed to protect against three flu viruses that experts predict will be the most common during the upcoming season. Each year, one flu virus of each kind is used to produce the seasonal flu vaccine.
The 2012-2013 flu vaccine is made from the following three viruses:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus
- A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus
- B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus
The 2012-2013 flu vaccine will not protect against the H3N2v flu, associated with exposure to swine, which resulted in more than 200 flu cases in 2011 and 2012.
When should I get the vaccine?
Get the vaccine as soon as it is available in your area. Flu season usually peaks in January or February, but it can occur as late as May. Early immunization is the most effective, but it is not too late to get the vaccine in December, January, or beyond.
How should I get the vaccine?
There are two types of vaccine, the flu shot and the nasal spray. Both protect against the same virus strains.
The flu shot is:
- Made with inactivated (killed) flu virus
- Given by needle
- Approved for use in healthy people older than 6 months and people with chronic health conditions
- Available in 3 types:
- Regular, for people 6 months and older
- High-dose, for people 65 and older. This type contains a higher dose vaccine, which may lead to greater protection against the flu.
- Intradermal (given with a small needle and injected in your skin), for people 18 to 64
The nasal spray is:
- Made with weakened live flu virus
- Given with a mist sprayed in your nose
- Approved for healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49, except pregnant women
How long is my flu vaccination good for?
The flu vaccine will protect you for one flu season.
How do flu vaccines work?
Flu vaccines (the flu shot and nasal spray) cause antibodies to develop in the body. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
Does the flu vaccine work right away?
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. In the meantime, you are still at risk for getting the flu. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really gets under way.
Is the vaccine safe?
Seasonal flu vaccines have a very good safety track record. Although there are possible side-effects to vaccination.
Mild side effects usually begin soon after you get the vaccine and last one to two days. Possible mild side effects of the flu shot include:
- Soreness, redness, and swelling at the injection site
- Fainting, mainly in adolescents
Possible mild side effects of the nasal spray include:
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
Serious side effects usually begin within a few minutes to a few hours after receiving the shot. Possible serious side effects of vaccination include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling around the eyes or lips
- Racing heart
- Behavior changes
- High fever
If you experience any of these reactions, seek medical attention immediately.
Can I get the flu from the vaccine?
No, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot or the nasal spray. The flu shot contains inactivated (killed) flu viruses that cannot cause illness. The nasal spray contains weakened live viruses. The weakened viruses only cause infection in the cooler temperatures found in the nose. The viruses cannot infect the lungs or other areas in the body where warmer temperatures exist.
Is there anyone who should not get the vaccine?
Talk to your health care provider about vaccination if you have:
- A severe allergy to chicken eggs
- A history of severe reaction to a flu vaccination
- A moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (you should wait until you are better to get the vaccine)
- A history of Guillian-Barre Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS)
Remember, contact your health care provider immediately if you have a serious reaction to the flu vaccine. And always discuss all medical issues with your health care provider including starting and or stopping any type of medical therapy or taking any type of over the counter medication.
For more information on the influenza virus and “Flu Season” please visit the following link: