Fever, cough, chills, sore throat, headache… is it the flu? Each year, influenza, or flu, sends thousands of Americans to the hospital. This contagious respiratory infection affects the entire body and is usually spread when a person coughs or sneezes.
The single most effective thing you can do to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated every year.
Misconceptions about the flu shot that may cause people to skip this important preventative measure. Here are some facts everyone should know about the flu vaccine.
Influenza, commonly called the "flu," is a serious respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications or even death. Even healthy people can get influenza and it can be serious.
Influenza vaccines given with a needle (a flu shot) do contain an inactivated (killed) virus or are made with a single protein from the virus to stimulate an immune response, but they cannot give you the flu. The nasal spray vaccine works a bit different as it contains live viruses, but they are weakened and only multiply within the nose due to temperature. This method also protects against the flu but cannot give you the flu.
Everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated each year as the circulating strains of the virus change each year. In addition, your body’s immune protection achieved through the flu vaccine declines over time and studies repeatedly show that a yearly vaccination best protects against the flu.
While it doesn't guarantee you won't get influenza, it significantly reduces your risk of getting sick. The influenza vaccine also decreases the severity of your symptoms should you still get the flu. These two protective benefits will help reduce how sick you feel and for how long.
Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.
Page last updated: October 19, 2023