Influenza: Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I get my children vaccinated against the flu?

  • Annual influenza vaccination is the best way to protect against the flu and children need this season’s vaccine to protect against influenza this season.
  • It’s best to get vaccinated before influenza activity begins so that you’ll be protected once flu season starts in your community.
  • Making healthy choices at school and at home can help prevent the flu and spreading flu to others.
  • CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine.Flu treatments or medications being advertised now are not a substitute for an annual flu vaccination.

What kind of flu vaccines are there?

  • There are two types of vaccines that protect against the flu. 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 among people 6 months of age or older, including healthy people and those with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease).
  • The nasal-spray flu vaccine (sometimes referred to as LAIV for Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine or FluMist®), was approved in 2003. The nasal-spray flu vaccine contains attenuated (weakened) live viruses, and is administered by nasal sprayer. It is approved for use only among healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.

How effective is the influenza vaccine?

  • Influenza vaccine can prevent illness in approximately 70-90% of healthy people aged less than 65 years.
  • Among elderly people living outside of nursing homes or similar chronic-care facilities, influenza vaccine is 30-70% effective in preventing hospitalization for pneumonia and influenza.
  • Among elderly persons residing in nursing homes, the vaccine can be 50-60% effective in preventing hospitalization or pneumonia and 80% effective in preventing death.

How can I tell if I have the flu or just a cold?

  • To many people "the flu" is any illness with fever and cold symptoms. Influenza (flu) and a cold are both respiratory (breathing) system infections caused by viruses. Initial symptoms of flu and colds are similar, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have the flu or a very bad cold. The flu can cause more serious illness than a common cold. Influenza vaccine only protects against certain influenza viruses and will not protect you from colds or other respiratory infections.

Tips for avoiding the flu and colds

  • Your best protection against the flu is an annual flu vaccination.
  • You can decrease your chances of getting a cold by frequently washing your hands and avoiding touching your nose, eyes, and mouth. The average adult gets 1-3 respiratory (breathing) illnesses each year, and children get even more. However, it would be unusual to get the flu more than once a year.
  • Sometimes you can get a bacterial infection of the middle ear or sinuses at the same time or following a cold or the flu. These bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. The flu, however, can lead to more serious complications such as pneumonia and sometimes death.
  • People who have the greatest risk of severe complications from flu are those 65 years old and older, those with certain medical conditions, and some young children.

Who should receive influenza vaccine?

  • All people age 6 months and older are recommended to receive an annual influenza vaccination.

When should I receive the influenza vaccine?

  • Since the flu viruses change constantly, an annual vaccination is recommended. You may receive flu vaccine anytime during the flu season, which typically lasts from November to March. While the best time to get flu vaccine is October or November, getting vaccinated in December or later can still protect you against the flu.

Where can I get vaccinated?

  • Call your doctor. Most primary care providers and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) offer flu vaccine from October through March.
  • Contact your local health department.
  • Search the Georgia Adult Immunization Coalition web site for a location by county or zip code.