5 Things You Need To Know About Getting A Flu Shot

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: October 16, 2020

As flu season creeps closer, we hear more and more about how it’s time to get a flu shot. But why is the flu shot so important? Does everyone need to get one? Here’s what you need to know.
  1. Who should get a flu shot?
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone aged six months and older should get an annual flu vaccination. The type of flu shot recommended varies depending on a person’s age and health status. For information on the type of flu vaccine right for you, consult your primary care provider or talk with one of our pharmacists or nurse practitioners for guidance.

    It is especially important for certain groups to get their flu shots each year due to their high risk of developing flu-related complications. These groups include:
    • Pregnant women, including women up to two weeks post-pregnancy
    • Adults age 65 years and older
    • Children under the age of five - especially those under the age of two
    • People with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or cancer
    • People in long-term care facilities or nursing homes
    • Healthcare professionals & caregivers
  2. How does the flu vaccine work?
    Flu shots work by stimulating the immune system to develop antibodies that protect against specific strains of the flu. The flu vaccine used on most Americans protects against the four flu viruses expected to be the most common strains that season.

    Flu vaccines are available as an injection or nasal spray. However, the nasal spray is only approved for individuals between the ages of 2 and 49, and is not recommended for the following groups:
    • Pregnant women
    • Children between the ages of 2 and 17 who are taking aspirin or salicylate-containing medications, such as Kaopectate or Pepto Bismol, for example
    • People with weakened immune systems
    • Children age 2 to 4 who have experienced asthma or wheezing in the last year
    • People without a spleen, or with a compromised spleen
    • People with an active leak of cerebrospinal fluid
    • People with cochlear implants
    • People who have recently taken flu antiviral drugs
  3. When should people get vaccinated?
    The CDC recommends getting flu shots before the end of October, as it takes the body two weeks to develop antibodies and protect against flu. Flu season typically occurs between October and May, though cases of flu can occur anytime throughout the year. If it is the first time your child is receiving the flu vaccine, they will need to get two doses. Be sure to schedule their first flu shot appointment as soon as possible, as they will need to wait at least four weeks before receiving a second dose.
  4. Are there any side effects?
    First and foremost, it is essential to understand that the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. Some people do experience minor side effects after a flu shot. Some potential side effects from the flu shot include:
    • Redness or soreness at the injection site
    • Mild headache
    • Fever
    • Muscle aches
    • Nausea
    • Fatigue

    After you get your flu shot, your provider will have you wait approximately 15-30 minutes to monitor for an allergic reaction. If you experience side effects, they are typically mild and only last a short time. However, contact a healthcare professional if side effects persist or become severe, or with any other concerns.
  5. Why is it important to get a flu shot?
    The flu can be mild - but it can also cause severe illness and possibly deadly complications in some cases. Flu can cause minor complications like sinus infections and ear infections or severe complications like pneumonia or bronchitis. The flu can even trigger complications resulting in inflammation of the heart or brain, multi-organ failure, or sepsis. According to the CDC, last year flu vaccines prevented 4.4 million flu related illnesses, 2.3 million influenza-associated medical visits, 58,000 flu-associated hospitalizations, and 3,500 flu-associated deaths.

    Also, with COVID-19 still active and spreading, it is important not to overtax our already heavily burdened healthcare system. It is also important to get your flu shot to reduce the possibility of contracting the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously. For more information on the importance of getting a flu shot this season in particular, check out this article.

When you’re ready to get your flu shot, schedule an appointment at your local Kroger Health Pharmacy or Clinic. Our team of caring and expert healthcare professionals can take care of your flu shot needs and address any questions or concerns you may have.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.