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Published on September 19, 2018

Take Care of Your Health: Prevent the Flu

Flu shot

The flu is a highly contagious illness that can occur in children or adults of any age. In the United States, the height of flu season is considered to be November through April, but people should begin getting vaccinated soon after the flu shot becomes available to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s never too late to get vaccinated. Don’t worry about getting the vaccine too early since it will protect you for the entire season.

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone except those under the age of six months. It is recommended that mothers of infants under six months get a flu shot to protect the infant through what is known as passive immunity. Adults over the age of 65 may benefit from the higher dose vaccine. After more research and a tweak in design, the nasal spray vaccine has returned as a recommended vaccination method this year.

For most people, the risk of complications from the vaccine is much smaller than the risk of complications from being infected with the flu virus itself. Some minor side effects that may occur from the flu shot are soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site or a low-grade fever. The vaccine is made from dead influenza viruses and can't give you the flu. Even if you do get the flu after getting your flu shot, you will be less likely to spread it since you’ve had the vaccine and you’ll recover faster. Very rarely, individuals can have severe allergic reactions to the flu shot, so it’s important to discuss with your physician prior to getting the vaccine.

If you are experiencing symptoms of the flu, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor, connect with a provider through a virtual visit or go to urgent care as soon as possible.

Cynthia Snider, MD, is an infectious diseases specialist with the Regional Center of Infectious Disease, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Cone Health, and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.