Influenza and flu shots
Protect yourself and your family from the flu
The best way to prevent flu is to get vaccinated.
Everyone over six months of age should receive the flu vaccine. It's especially important if you live with people who are at high risk for developing flu–related complications.
How to help prevent the spread of influenza
In addition to getting the seasonal flu shot each year, you can take these steps to help prevent the spread of the flu.
Try e-Visits in MyChart
Avoid long waits and added exposure from other sick patients with a MyChart e-Visit. Adults (18+) with flu-like symptoms can use e-Visits instead of going to the clinic or urgent care.
Flu shots: Questions and answers
Warren Shepard, MD, explains why he gets a flu shot every year.
It's important that everyone 6 months and older have a flu shot to prevent other people from getting the flu, which is really not a pleasant experience and can lead to sinus infections, bronchitis, time away from work. A certain number of people every year actually die from the flu.
We get a shot every year and advise them for patients. Because the flu actually changes its form, the shot that you get this year is not the exact same shot you got last year. This year's shot has two new strains in it compared to last year.
I can say that for people who don't like needles, first of all, I get one every year myself and it's not bad. And second, if you're really phobic about needles you can get the flu mist which is a nasal spray if you're over two and up to 49 years of age and don't have certain medical conditions such as asthma or lung disease. But the shot really is the preferred mode and it's really, I can testify, it's not bad at all.
Flu shots are very easy to get, compared to 10 years ago. You can call your clinic. They may have special hours devoted after work so you don't take time away from work. If it's not meeting your scheduling needs, try Target, Walmart, Minute Clinic, the grocery store.
Getting the shot is a small price to pay compared to getting the flu. Even if you don't get a bad case, you may still miss a few days of work. Having had the flu years ago, I can tell you it was not a fun experience. I'll take the shot every year.
"Getting a flu shot is a quick, simple step you can take to avoid getting most common types of flu," says Warren Shepard, MD, Allina Medical Clinic. "It's the best way to help protect you and everyone around you."
That's why Dr. Shepard recommends the vaccine for that nearly all his patients. He answers common questions about flu shots.
There are no major changes. The flu vaccine has been updated to help protect against flu strains that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects to be common. Also, babies over six months old receiving the flu shot for the first time will be given two doses, one month apart.
Some people may have a mild reaction, including a fever and cold-like symptoms. This generally only lasts for about a day or so after getting the shot and is part of the body's normal immune response. If you have this reaction, you can take Tylenol® to control the symptoms.
The types of flu viruses change from flu season to flu season. It is important to be vaccinated each year in order to be protected from the current flu strains.
The flu vaccine helps protect against the most common influenza virus expected this flu season. Two new flu strains have been added to this season's vaccine. However, the vaccine will not protect against the swine flu.
H3N2v is an influenza virus that normally affects pigs and that has infected a small number of humans. It is rare, but this influenza can spread from pigs to people and from people to pigs. When people get swine flu viruses, it's usually after contact with pigs, such as at fairs.
Flu shots work by stimulating your immune system to develop antibodies against the viruses included in the vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people get vaccinated against the flu as soon as the vaccine becomes available in their community.
You can get vaccinated at any time throughout the influenza season.
I'm not aware of any official data on that. However, doctors tend to have healthy behaviors. Not only do they understand the risks of not getting vaccinated, they have a responsibility to protect their patients from complications of getting the flu.
Everyone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all people, 6 months and older, get the annual influenza vaccination.
It is especially important for these groups of people to get vaccinated because they are at high risk of developing complications like pneumonia:
If you have had a bad flu shot reaction or Guillain-Barré syndrome, don't get a flu shot before consulting your doctor.
Often called FluMist®, the live nasal spray flu vaccine can be an option for healthy people, who are 2 to 49 years-old and are not pregnant. Ask your doctor if this is an option for you.
FluMist is not recommended if you have certain medical conditions that weaken your immune system, such as asthma.
If you have sensitivities to preservatives, ask your doctor about getting a vaccine that does not contain preservatives.
If you are allergic to latex, ask your doctor about using a latex-free syringe.
Contact your clinic about when you can come in for a flu shot. If you work in health care or public service, you might be able to get a flu shot at work.
For places in Minnesota where you can get flu shots, visit the Department of Health's website. Locations range from clinics and hospitals to drug stores and community centers.
Source: Minnesota Department of Health; United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevention and Control of Influenza: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
Reviewed by: Lynn Berg, risk and safety director, Allina Medical Clinic; Cindy Larson, infection preventionist, Mercy Hospital
First Published: 09/10/2003
Last Reviewed: 01/04/2013
When to call your health care provider
Influenza is a respiratory (nose, throat, lungs) illness caused by influenza viruses (germs). Commonly known as the flu, influenza can cause mild to severe illness.
You may have some or all of the following symptoms:
If you have these symptoms, you should:
Who is at risk for flu complications?
If they get influenza, some people may end up on the hospital or possibly die because of flu-related complications. That is why annual flu shots are especially recommended for:
The flu can also make chronic health problems worse. People with medical conditions like these should get an annual influenza vaccination: