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Protect Yourself from Seasonal Flu

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    Content last updated on:
    February 14, 2013

    The Basics

    Everyone age 6 months and older needs to get a flu shot (vaccine) every year. The seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu.

    For many people, the seasonal flu is a mild illness. But for some people, the flu can lead to:

    • Serious infections like pneumonia (“noo-MOHN-yah”)
    • Hospitalization
    • Death

    The flu spreads easily from person to person. When you get the flu shot, you don’t just protect yourself – you also protect the people around you.

    The Basics

    What is the flu?
    The flu is caused by a virus that infects your nose, throat, and lungs. It’s easily spread from person to person.

    Symptoms of the flu include:

    • High fever
    • Headache
    • Tiredness
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Muscle aches

    The Basics

    Am I at high risk for complications from the flu?
    For some people, the flu is more likely to lead to serious illness. If you are at high risk from the flu, get a flu shot as early as you can each year. Groups at high risk from the flu include:

    If you spend time with someone at high risk from the flu, you can help protect both of you by getting a flu shot.

    The Basics

    When should I get the seasonal flu shot?
    Get the flu shot as soon as it’s available in your community each year. After you get the shot, it takes about 2 weeks for your body to develop protection against the flu. That’s why it’s a good idea to get the vaccine before flu season starts.

    Flu season can be different from year to year. It can start as early as October and last as late as May.

    Can I get the nasal (nose) spray instead of the shot?
    The flu vaccine can be given in a nasal spray or a shot. You may get the nasal spray if you:

    • Are between ages 2 and 49
    • Aren’t pregnant
    • Don’t have certain health conditions, like asthma or diabetes

    The Basics

    Are there any side effects from the seasonal flu vaccine?
    Some people may have mild side effects. These side effects begin soon after the vaccine is given and usually last 1 to 2 days. Most people don’t have any side effects after getting the flu vaccine.

    Flu shot
    People who get the flu shot sometimes feel sore where they got the shot. You can’t get the flu from the flu shot because it’s made from killed flu viruses.

    Flu nasal spray
    People who get the nasal spray may have a stuffy nose or headache afterward. The flu viruses in the nasal spray are weakened and can’t cause the flu.

    Take Action!

    Take Action!

    You can get a flu shot at your doctor’s office or clinic. You may also be able to get a flu shot from your local health department, pharmacy, or employer.

    Find a flu clinic near you.
    Use this flu clinic locator to find out where you can get a flu shot near you.

    What about cost?
    The seasonal flu vaccine is covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get the flu vaccine at no cost to you.

    Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

    Your flu shot is free if you have Medicare Part B.

    Take Action!

    Fight the flu.
    Getting the flu vaccine is the most important step in protecting yourself from the flu. Here are some other things you can do to keep from getting and spreading the flu:

    • Stay away from people who are sick.
    • If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water.
    • Try not to touch your nose, mouth, or eyes.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
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