Protect Yourself from Seasonal Flu

The Basics
Get a seasonal flu vaccine every year. The flu vaccine is available starting each fall.

Take Action!
Call your local health department and ask where you can get the flu shot.

Start Today: Small Steps

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The Basics

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Everyone age 6 months and older needs to get a flu vaccine every year. Seasonal flu vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu.

For many people, the seasonal flu is a mild illness. But sometimes, the flu can be serious or even deadly.

The flu:

Flu vaccines can help prevent people from getting sick with the flu – and lower the risk of hospitalization and death caused by the flu.

The flu spreads easily from person to person. When you get a flu vaccine, you don’t just protect yourself. You also protect everyone around you.

When do I need to get the seasonal flu vaccine?

Get a flu vaccine by the end of October each year. After you get the vaccine, it takes about 2 weeks for your body to develop protection against the flu. That’s why it’s a good idea to get the vaccine before the flu starts to spread in your community.

If you don’t get the vaccine by the end of October, it’s not too late. Getting the vaccine later can still protect you from the flu. Keep in mind that flu season can last as late as May.

What is the flu?

The flu is caused by certain viruses that infect your nose, throat, and lungs. It spreads from person to person when someone with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks. It's also possible to get the flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. 

Symptoms of the flu may include:

For some people, the flu may also cause vomiting (throwing up) and diarrhea (frequent, watery poop). This is more common in children than adults.

Remember, not everyone with the flu gets a fever.

How is the flu vaccine given?

You can get the flu vaccine as a shot or as a nasal spray.

The best way to protect yourself and others around you is to get a flu vaccine every year.

Are there any side effects from seasonal flu vaccines?

For many people, getting a flu vaccine doesn’t cause any side effects. If it does cause side effects, they're usually mild and begin soon after you get the vaccine. Side effects from flu vaccines usually last 1 to 2 days.

Side effects from the flu shot may include:

Side effects from the nasal spray vaccine may include:

These side effects aren’t the flu. You can’t get the flu from flu vaccines.

Am I at high risk for serious complications from the flu?
For some people, the flu is more likely to cause serious illness that can lead to hospitalization or even death.

People at high risk for serious flu complications include:

If you’re at high risk for serious flu complications, it’s especially important to get the vaccine before the flu starts to spread in your community. And if you care for or spend time with someone at high risk for serious flu complications, the flu vaccine can protect you both.

Learn more about who’s at high risk for flu complications.

Is there medicine that can treat the flu?
Yes. If you get sick with the flu, your doctor may prescribe medicines called antiviral drugs. Antiviral drugs can help you feel less sick and shorten the time that you’re sick. They can also help prevent serious flu complications.

If you’re at high risk for serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms, tell your doctor about your symptoms right away.

Antiviral drugs work best if you start taking them in the first 2 days after you get sick. But they may still help if you take them later on, especially if you’re very sick.

Get the facts about antiviral flu medicines.


Take Action!

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Flu vaccines are offered in many locations. You can get a flu vaccine at a doctor’s office, health clinic, pharmacy, or your local health department. Your employer may also offer flu vaccines.

Find out where to get a flu vaccine near you.

Use this vaccine locator External Links Disclaimer Logo to find out where you can get a flu vaccine near you.

What about cost?

Under the Affordable Care Act, most private insurance plans must cover seasonal flu vaccines. This means you may be able to get a flu vaccine at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

If you have Medicare Part B, you can get a flu vaccine at no cost to you. Learn more about Medicare coverage for flu vaccines.

If you don’t have insurance, you can still get a flu vaccine.

Protect yourself and others from the flu.

Getting a flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting yourself from the flu.

Here are some other things you can do to help protect yourself and others from the flu:

Adults with the flu can spread it to others starting the day before they first feel sick – and up to 5 to 7 days after they first feel symptoms. Children may be able to spread the flu for even longer than 7 days.


Start Today: Small Steps

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