Should I Get a Flu Vaccine?
Most cases of the flu (influenza) occur from January through March; however, the best time to protect yourself is during October or November. Most people feel better after 1 or 2 weeks, but for some people, the flu leads to serious diseases, such as pneumonia. Flu symptoms can include:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle aches
- Nausea or vomiting
The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone who wants to lessen their risk of getting the flu. Certain people, though, have a higher risk and are encouraged to receive the vaccine—including children 6 months to 5 years old, pregnant women, those 50 and older, and people with certain chronic medical conditions. Children under 6 months are extremely susceptible to the virus, but cannot receive the vaccine. It is recommended that those who have or work with children less than 6 months old be vaccinated.
This year, you may have some options about how you receive the vaccine. The traditional "flu shot" contains the killed virus and is injected by needle, usually into the arm. The second option is a nasal spray vaccine that contains live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu. The nasal spray vaccine will be available as early as August this year, intended mostly for children who may receive their annual physical before returning to school. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of each to see which vaccine is right for you.