What is influenza (flu)?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year.
There are two types of vaccines:
The "flu shot" is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.
The nasal-spray flu vaccine "flu mist" is a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”). LAIV (FluMist®) is approved for use in healthy people 2-49 years of age* who are not pregnant.
October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but you can still get vaccinated in December and later. Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May.
Who Should Get Vaccinated
In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, it is recommended by ACIP that certain people should get vaccinated each year. They are either people who are at high risk of having serious flu complications or people who live with or care for those at high risk for serious complications. During flu seasons when vaccine supplies are limited or delayed, ACIP makes recommendations regarding priority groups for vaccination.People who should get vaccinated each year are:
People at high risk for complications from the flu, including:
- Children aged 6 months until their 5th birthday,
- Pregnant women,
- People 50 years of age and older, and
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions;
- People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities.
People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
- Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu (see above)
- Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
- Healthcare workers.
We are currently administering the flu mist for all patients the age of 2 years old or older. The flu mist can not be given to patients with respiratory disease (asthma) or chronic medical illnesses.
We have provided questionnaires above under Flu Shots and Influenza to help determine whether the Flu mist or Flu shot would be best for your child.