A Simple Way to Keep the Flu Away
You can prevent the flu this season by taking one simple step: Get a flu vaccine. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. This includes pregnant women.
The flu is also called seasonal influenza. It's caused by one of several strains of the flu virus (type A or B) that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu makes life miserable for a week or two for many people. It's deadly for some. Flu season can start as early as October. It peaks anywhere from late December to early April.
This year you may have another important reason to get the flu shot: COVID-19. Experts suspect that those who get COVID-19 and the flu at the same time may be more likely to have severe complications or die from either illness. With COVID-19 circulating this year, it's very important that you prevent getting the flu by getting vaccinated.
The flu vaccine is usually given by shot, most often into a muscle in the arm. It's approved for most people older than 6 months of age. Children ages 6 months to 8 years who have never been vaccinated need 2 doses given 1 month apart. This is to build up protection. After the first flu season, your child will need only 1 dose for future flu seasons. A nasal spray is also an option for healthy, non-pregnant people 2 to 49 years old. A flu vaccine is especially important for people who are more likely to have problems if they get the flu. This includes
- Children younger than 5 years, and especially younger than 2 years
- People 65 years and older
- Those with long-term (chronic) health conditions or a weak immune system
- Anyone who lives in a nursing home or care facility
- Pregnant women and women who have had a baby in the last 2 weeks
- American Indians and Alaska Natives
- People with a body mass index of 40 or more
Even if you don't fall into one of the above groups, you should still get the vaccine if you want to prevent the flu.
Talk with your healthcare provider first
Some people shouldn't be vaccinated for the flu before talking with their healthcare provider, the CDC says. These are reasons to talk with your healthcare provider:
- You have a severe allergy to chicken eggs. This means more than itchy skin. An egg-free vaccine is available for people age 18 and older. You will be advised to get your flu shot in a medical setting where a healthcare provider can monitor you and give emergency care if needed for a severe reaction.
- You developed Guillain-Barré syndrome in the 6 weeks after getting a flu shot in the past.
- You currently have an illness with a fever. Wait until symptoms get better before getting the vaccine.
Children younger than 6 months of age should not be vaccinated against the flu. Flu vaccines haven't been approved for that age group.
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