Getting a flu shot is definitely a good idea, especially for people who may be vulnerable to seasonal infections. Catching a flu virus can be much worse than getting a cold and can make you sick for a week or longer. While infants younger than six months old should not get the shot, it is highly recommended for people who fall in the categories below.

CDC Recommendations
Although the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over six months old gets a flu shot, it is even more important that high-risk persons get one. Typically, these are people who are vulnerable to the infection for one reason or another and include the following groups.  (Careworks provides flu shots to children starting at 3 years of age but only if it is not the child’s first dose of flu vaccine.)

  • Seniors over 50
  • People in nursing homes or assisted-care facilities
  • People with chronic lung or heart problems
  • Children with asthma
  • People with such diseases as HIV, diabetes, renal dysfunction and hemoglobinopathies
  • Young persons who are receiving aspirin therapy
  • Pregnant women who reach their second or third trimester during flu season
  • College students who live on campus
  • Members of the military
  • Medical professionals/healthcare providers
  • Household contacts

What is Meant by “Household Contacts”?
Although it is recommended for the above people to get flu shots each year, keep in mind that “household contacts” should receive regular flu vaccines as well. For example, if you have a child with asthma, that child and any other family members in the household should all get a flu shot.

Additionally, if you live with a senior over 50 or someone with a chronic illness, everyone in the home should get a vaccine. Finally, even if you or any of your family members are not considered high risk, you may want to consider getting a flu shot anyway to reduce your risk of catching infections.

Who Should NOT Get the Flu Shot?
The above people are those who should consider getting a flu shot. In the subsequent paragraphs, we will discuss about people who should not receive the vaccine. These groups of people could potentially experience various adverse side effects after receiving a flu shot.

  • Infants under six months old
  • People who have had severe allergic reactions to eggs
  • People who have had adverse reactions to flu shots in the past
  • People who have experienced Guillain-Barre Syndrome after receiving a flu shot
  • People under 65 should not receive a high dose of the flu shot
  • Young persons under 18 and seniors over 64 should not receive an intradermal flu shot
  • People who are moderately to severely ill
  • Pregnant women in their first trimester
  • Persons with muscle or nerve disorders

How Does the Flu Spread?
There are many ways that the flu can spread, and infected people can spread it to others even if they are six feet away from them. Some of the most common ways to catch the flu include;

  • When you come in contact with infected surfaces and
  • Iinhale infected droplets that are released when sick people cough or sneeze

During flu season, it is essential for you to wash your hands often with warm water and soap. If this is not possible, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead. Additionally, do not share such things as cups, eating utensils and dishes. Frequent disinfecting of your household surfaces can help as well.

When Should You Get Your Flu Shot?
Flu season typically lasts from October through May. It is a good idea to get your flu shot as early in the season as possible. In this way, your body will have a chance to build up immunity to the virus. If you do not like getting shots, you may be able to get the vaccine in a nasal spray. Talk to your doctor today and find out what your options are to protect yourself and your loved ones from irritation and annoyance caused by flu.

Author:  Michelle Holincheck, FNP

For more cold and flu information, visit Careworks.