Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious cases can result in hospitalization or death.
Just like other vaccinations, the flu shot is made from a killed virus. When this virus is injected (flu shot) or inhaled (nasal-spray flu vaccine), your body’s immune system recognizes that a foreign substance is present and makes antibodies that attach to the virus. These antibodies signal the immune system to attack and destroy the virus. The flu virus changes every year so annual flu vaccines are necessary.
The flu vaccine is not guaranteed to prevent the flu, but minimizes your chances of contracting the flu virus and, if you do get the flu, the vaccine helps to minimize the symptoms.
Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine. You should especially receive a vaccination if you:
Some people should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting their doctor. These include:
Health experts recommend that adults and children receive a flu vaccine well ahead of the flu season. Seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and generally peaks in the U.S. in January or February, but can continue to occur as late as May.
Flu vaccines are offered by doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers. Many employers and schools may also provide flu vaccinations.
For more information, please speak with your physician. Don’t have a doctor? Find one here.
Remember that this information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, but rather to increase awareness and help equip patients with information to facilitate conversations with their physician.
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