The CDC recommends that pretty much everyone get a flu shot now. Except for babies under the age of 6 months (the vaccine is not approved for them), it can benefit nearly everyone else. And for those that can’t get it, the more people around them that do, the more protected they will be.
However, there are certain groups of people that really shouldn’t get the flu vaccine, or who at least need to discuss the pros and cons with their health care providers. For these people, the vaccine may pose more risks than it’s worth, or it may even be life-threatening.
Those Who Shouldn’t Get the Vaccine
- Babies under 6 months old
- Those with a history of an allergic reaction to previous flu vaccines
- Those who are allergic to any component of the flu vaccine
- Anyone with a fever (typically over 101 F) or moderate to severe illness at the time of vaccination; wait until you are better
If you have any of the following conditions or circumstances, discuss the benefits and risks of the flu vaccine with your health care provider before you get it:
- History of egg allergy (Learn more about if the flu vaccine safe for people with egg allergies.)
- Anyone who has a history of Guillain Barre syndrome within six weeks of getting the flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine is considered safe for pretty much everyone else, but if you have concerns or questions, discuss your options with your healthcare provider.
Why It’s Important
We also have in-depth articles about why flu shots are important for certain high-risk individuals. If you have any of the following concerns, be sure to read up on how and why the flu vaccine is important for you.
- Heart Disease
- Older Adults and Elderly
- Cancer Patients
- Hospice Patients
- Pregnant Women
What Else Can You Do?
Flu vaccines are not perfect. They do not provide 100% protection from the flu for everyone that gets one. Most years, they are about 65% effective. Researchers are working on ways to make the seasonal flu vaccine more effective―or even better, to create one that we don’t have to get every year: one that would provide better protection and last for multiple years. Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet, and the current vaccines are the best we have. Despite their relatively low protection rate, they are still the best option to protect yourself from the flu.
If you choose not to get vaccinated or you are included in one of the categories above and you can’t get a flu vaccine, make sure you take these other steps to keep yourself healthy during flu season:
- Wash Your Hands: Other than getting a flu vaccine, washing your hands frequently is the single most effective thing you can do to prevent the flu and stay healthy during cold and flu season (or any time!). Make sure you are doing it properly, so you get the full benefit and actually get the germs off your hands.
- Avoid Touching Your Face: Even if you wash your hands frequently, your hands come into contact with millions of germs every day. If you touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth after you have touched anything that has germs on it (door knobs, computer keyboard, phone, desk, any other person, etc.), you are introducing those germs into your body and there is a chance they will make you sick. It is difficult to avoid touching your face, most of us do it far more than we realize, but if you make a conscious effort, you can cut down on the amount of times that you do it and may avoid some of those illnesses.
- Consider Antivirals if You Do Get Sick: If you are at high risk for complications from the flu or you live with someone who is, talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you notice symptoms that you think could be caused influenza. Antiviral medications can reduce the severity of your symptoms and the duration of your illness, as well as reducing the chance that you pass it to someone else.
Whether you are not able to get a flu vaccine for medical reasons or you simply choose not to, take all of the steps that you can to protect yourself and your family from influenza this and every flu season.