What is the seasonal flu vaccine?

The seasonal flu vaccine is a vaccination that protects you from getting the seasonal flu. Each year experts from the FDA, the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other health organizations identify the latest strains of the seasonal flu virus and approve a new vaccine aimed at fighting them.

The seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you from swine flu (also known as H1N1 virus) which requires a different vaccination.

Why should I get it?

If you don't want the flu, you should get vaccinated. Seasonal flu isn't something to take lightly—according to the CDC, 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized each year from flu complications, and about 36,000 people die from it. The FDA specifically recommends the flu shot for these groups:

  • young children
  • elderly people
  • people with chronic health conditions
  • pregnant women
  • healthcare workers

What's the difference between the flu vaccine shot and the nasal spray?

The flu vaccine comes in two forms: an injection in the arm and a nasal spray. While the shot contains influenza viruses that have been killed off, the nasal spray vaccine LAIV (FluMist®) has live viruses that have been weakened. The flu shot has been approved for people older than 6 months, and is OK for people who are healthy—including women who are pregnant—as well as those who have chronic health conditions.

The nasal spray has been approved for healthy people ages 2 to 49. It is not approved for pregnant women, children younger than 2 or those younger than 5 who have breathing problems, men and women older than 50, or people who have asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease, or allergies to eggs.

Will I have side effects?

The vaccine itself won't give you the flu. With the flu shot you may have a low-grade fever or feel general aches and pains, or you may feel sore or have redness or swelling where the shot was given.

The nasal spray affects children and adults somewhat differently. Adults may have a runny nose, sore throat, headache, or cough. Children may have some or all of those side effects, plus nausea, wheezing, vomiting, or fever.

When should I get vaccinated?

The flu season tends to run from fall to spring, so the best time to get vaccinated is October or November. Even getting the vaccine late in the flu season can still have benefits, so don't feel like you've missed your chance.

Will getting the vaccine guarantee that I won't get the flu?

No. But getting vaccinated will greatly reduce your chances of getting sick or spreading the flu to others.

I'm breastfeeding. Should I still get vaccinated?

Yes. The flu shot will not harm you or your baby.

Is there anyone who should not get vaccinated?

You should not get the vaccine if you've had a previous allergic reaction to the vaccine, if you're allergic to eggs or any part of the vaccine, or if you have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome. Talk to your doctor about whether you should postpone the vaccine if you have a fever or other short-term illness.