Uh-oh. Could you need another shot? Yes, but like all
, this one can protect you from a pretty awful illness - the flu.
In a healthy person, the flu causes a fever, body aches, and other
cold-like symptoms. A person who has the flu will sleep a lot and
feel sick, but will get better in 1 or 2 weeks.
The problem with the
, also called influenza (say: in-floo-
-zuh), is that it makes some people really sick. They are less able
to get well on their own so they may need to go to the hospital.
That's why it's so important that certain people get a flu
Who Must Get a Shot?
Kids between the ages of 6 months and 18 years should get
the flu shot. This is especially important for kids who have:
Kids also need the flu shot if they live with someone who could
get very sick if they get the flu. This includes pregnant women and
kids and grownups who have any of the health problems listed above.
Little babies, especially ones who were born prematurely, and
people older than 50 also should be protected from the flu. So, if
there's a baby in your family or you live with a grandparent,
you may need to take one for the team and get a flu shot! That way,
they'll be protected.
But even if you don't fall into any of those categories,
your doctor still might give you a flu shot. Why? Well, if you can
avoid getting the flu, then you won't have to feel terrible and
Because the flu vaccine is grown inside eggs, some people should
get the flu shot or any other kind of flu vaccine (say: vak-
). Kids who are
allergic to eggs
or have had allergic reactions to previous flu vaccines should not
One Shot Or Two?
If you're younger than 9 years old and have never had a flu
shot before, you will need two shots a month apart. Everyone else
needs only one shot each year. As with any shot, if you're
scared, talk with your mom or dad about it. It might help to hold a
parent's hand while you're getting the shot.
Some kids won't have to worry about a needle at all when
they get their flu vaccine. Another type of flu vaccine uses a
nasal spray (a mist that's squirted up your nose) instead of a
shot. This type of vaccine contains live flu virus, though, and
shouldn't be given to kids who have health problems - or even
kids who live with people who could get very sick from the flu.
When Do You Get a Flu Shot?
If you're getting a flu vaccine, it's best to get it in
the fall, before "flu season." Flu season starts in
November and usually ends in April. December, January, and February
are typically the worst months for flu, when the most people have
it and you're most likely to get it.
You may have heard about shortages of the flu shot in the past.
When shortages occur, health experts sometimes recommend a priority
system. That means the people most in danger from the flu get their
shots first and other people get theirs later.
What's in a Flu Shot?
Influenza is a
-rus). The flu shot helps your body get ready to defend itself
against that virus in case it tries to invade your body. The flu
shot contains a small amount of dead, or killed, flu viruses. The
flu shot won't give you the flu, but those dead viruses are
enough to get your body's immune system ready to fight off the
real flu when it comes around this winter.
The nasal spray does contain live flu virus, so some people who
get this vaccine may get some mild flu-like symptoms. But it's
still worth getting because just like the flu shot, the nasal
vaccine can keep you from getting a really bad case of the flu.
New Year, New Shot
To be protected against the flu, you have to get a flu shot
every year. Unlike some other illnesses, like
, the flu virus keeps changing. The vaccine needs to change to keep
up with the type of flu that is expected to cause problems that
Each year, doctors and scientists who study the flu try to
predict which virus will make people sick during the next flu
season. Then they make the vaccine out of a mixture of the three
most likely viruses.
After the Shot
The flu shot is very safe, and most people have no problems with
it. Occasionally, the spot where you got the shot might feel sore.
After the flu shot, some people might feel achy or have a mild
, but that's nothing like the flu, which can make you sick for
1 or 2 weeks.
Whether you get the flu shot or not, you can take an important
step toward preventing the flu and other winter illnesses:
Wash your hands regularly
. When you do, you wash away those nasty
that want to make you sick!
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2008
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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