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The flu is nothing to sneeze at (pun intended). This year, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself and your family by getting a flu shot. And it’s not just for you; you’re also protecting those around you who are more vulnerable — like babies, your children, senior citizens and pregnant women. But maybe you’ve got questions about the cost, side effects or effectiveness of the flu shot.

Check out these FAQs for more information:

How much does it cost to get a flu shot? Flu shots and other vaccines are required to be covered by your health insurance without a copayment or co-insurance. But, be sure to check with your insurance company to find out if you must go to a specific facility to receive the vaccine. Some insurance plans only cover vaccines given by your doctor or at a limited set of locations.

Do I really need a flu shot? Do my kids/parents need one? Flu vaccinations have been shown to prevent flu illnesses or lessen the severity of flu symptoms. However, please check with your physician if you have any questions or concerns.

What is the first sign of flu? The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)

What else can I do to prevent the flu?

  • Wash your hands throughout the day with soap and warm water to kill all germs.
  • Keep your hands away from your face, specifically your nose, eyes and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with those who may be sick, and stay home when you’re sick.
  • Disinfect surfaces that attract germs at work (computer keyboards, telephones, doorknobs, elevator buttons) and at home with alcohol-based cleaners or antiseptic wipes.
  • Increase your body’s natural virus-killing cells with 30 minutes a day of moderately intense aerobic exercise.
  • Eat dark green, red and yellow vegetables and fruits which are filled with nutrients. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
  • Train yourself to relax for 30 minutes a day. Relaxation is a learnable skill, and it will boost your immune system.

Doesn’t the flu shot actually give you the flu? No. While some people do not feel well after getting a seasonal flu vaccine, a flu shot cannot cause flu illness. The influenza virus contained in a flu shot are inactivated (killed), which means they cannot cause infection.

When is flu season? While seasonal influenza (flu) viruses are detected year-round in the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity begins to increase in October often peaking between December and February.

When should I get a flu shot? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people get vaccinated against influenza as soon as the flu season vaccine becomes available in their community.

How long does it take for the flu shot to kick in? It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. That’s why it’s best to get vaccinated before influenza viruses start to spread in your community.

Why did I get the flu even though I had the flu shot? Getting a flu shot does not guarantee that you won’t be infected with the flu that year. How well the flu vaccine works depends on a number of factors, including how accurate the match is between the influenza vaccine and the types of flu viruses that are circulating that year. In years when the vaccine strains and the virus strains are well-matched, the vaccine can reduce the chances of getting the flu by 70 to 90 percent in healthy adults.

Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Key Facts About Influenza (Flu). https://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm
Guidance Resources Online. Seasonal Flu Resource Guide. https://www.guidanceresources.com/groWeb/s/alert.xhtml?nodeld=722169&conversationContext=1
The Washington Post. Drop in Adult Flu Vaccinations May be Factor in Last Season’s Record-Breaking Deaths. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2018/10/25/drop-adult-flu-vaccinations-may-be-factor-last-seasons-record-breaking-deaths-illnesses/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.15bb97bb577d

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