Flu shot Q&A: Quiz yourself!

Flu shot Q & A

Who is at particular risk from the flu?

People under age 5 or over age 50, which covers a lot of people.  Also at high risk are people with diabetes, kidney, lung, heart, or hematologic disease; and those who are immunosuppressed (from disease or medications); and pregnant women.

Are there special concerns for children?

Children under 5, and particularly those under age 2, are at higher risk for serious disease. Each year an estimated 20,000 American children under age 5 are hospitalized with the flu. If it is their first flu shot, children between ages 6 months and 8 years need a booster, given at least 28 days after the initial shot. Children under 6 months are too young to get the shot.

I’m young, and pretty healthy. Why should I bother getting this vaccination?

Do you have young children at home? Do you come in contact with the elderly, or people with chronic diseases, who are more at risk from the flu? If so, you can protect them by protecting yourself with a flu shot.  Remember, you can be spreading the flu virus a day before you even start coming down with symptoms.

Is the shot safe for pregnant women?

Yes; in fact it is recommended for pregnant women, because pregnant women more prone to severe illness from the flu. Pregnant women with the flu also have a greater chance of serious problems for their unborn babies, including premature labor and delivery. Thus the shot protects the mother, the unborn, and the newborn. The flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women.

Who should NOT get the flu shot?

Talk to your doctor first if you have an allergy to eggs or if you have had a rare disease called Guillain–Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness). If you are sick with a fever you should postpone the shot. If you have a mild illness with no fever you can still have the shot.

When should the flu shot be given?

As soon as possible, because flu season can start as early as October, and it takes two weeks for the vaccine to become effective.  However, you can still benefit from the shot through the winter, as flu season can last until May.

How effective is the shot?

Each year the vaccine makers try to predict which strains of flu will circulate in the coming season, and include those strains in the vaccine. Sometimes their predictions turn out to be wrong, and the vaccine is less helpful or not helpful at all.

What are the side effects of the shot?

Possible side effects include redness or swelling where the shot was given, low-grade fever and muscle aches. Serious reactions are very rare and usually occur in people with severe allergic reactions to eggs.

Why do I need the flu shot each year?

Two reasons:

  • The immunity produced by the shot wanes over time.
  • Each year the ingredients in the shot are changed to reflect the predicted strains of the coming season’s flu.