What is influenza?
Who is at higher risk?
- All children from 6 months up to 19 years of age
- All adults 50 years of age and older
- All women who are or will be pregnant during the flu season
- People who are living in nursing homes or long-term-care facilities
- Individuals who have long-term health problems
- Health care workers who have direct contact with patients
- Caregivers and household contacts of children less than 6 months of age
The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the influenza vaccine. You should get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available each fall, but you can also get it any time throughout the flu season (into December, January and beyond). The vaccine is available by shot or by nasal spray. The vaccines work by exposing your immune system to the flu virus. Your body will build up antibodies to the virus to protect you from getting the flu. The flu shot contains dead viruses. The nasal-spray vaccine contains live but weakened viruses. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot or the nasal-spray vaccine.
You can also reduce your risk of catching the flu by washing your hands frequently, which stops the spread of germs. Eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep also play a part in preventing the flu because they help boost your immune system.
Some people who get the vaccine will still get the flu, but they will usually get a milder case than people who aren’t vaccinated. The vaccine is especially recommended for people who are more likely to get really sick from flu-related complications.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t get the flu shot?
- People who have had an allergic reaction to a flu shot in the past
- People who have an allergy to eggs
- People who previously developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a reversible reaction that causes partial or complete loss of movement of muscles, weakness or a tingling sensation in the body) within 6 weeks of getting a flu shot
- Children younger than 6 months of age
- People who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait until they feel better before receiving the flu shot