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Influenza and flu shots

Skip the flu.
Get your flu shot.

Annual influenza vaccinations are
available at most Allina Health clinics.

Schedule flu shots or try an e-visit with MyChart.

Protect yourself and your family from the flu

The best way to prevent flu is to get vaccinated.

Everyone over six months of age should receive the flu vaccine. It's especially important if you live with people who are at high risk for developing flu–related complications.

How to help prevent the spread of influenza

In addition to getting the seasonal flu shot each year, you can take these steps to help prevent the spread of the flu.

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue available, cough into your sleeve instead of your hand.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick. If you get the flu, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use a waterless alcohol handrub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits:
    • Eat well-balanced meals.
    • Exercise.
    • Manage your stress.
    • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • Get plenty of rest.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department , Influenza, ic-ahc-14772; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Minnesota Department of Health
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department; Heidi Gallart, infection preventionist, Allina Health
First Published: 04/30/2009
Last Reviewed: 08/30/2013

Flu shots: Questions and answers

Warren Shepard, MD, explains why he gets a flu shot every year.

Read transcript.

"Getting a flu shot is a quick, simple step you can take to avoid getting most common types of flu," says Warren Shepard, MD, Allina Medical Clinic. "It's the best way to help protect you and everyone around you."

That's why Dr. Shepard recommends the vaccine for nearly all his patients. He answers common questions about flu shots.

What is new about the flu vaccine this year?
Can I get sick from a flu shot?
Why do I have to get a shot every year?
What types of flu does the flu vaccine address?
What should I know about the swine flu?
How do flu shots work?
When should I get an annual flu shot?
Do doctors usually get flu shots?
Who should get a flu shot?
Who should not get a flu shot?
I don't like needles. Can I get the nasal spray vaccine?
Do you have the new quadrivalent vaccine?
Is a preservative-free vaccine available?
I'm allergic to latex. Is there a latex-free syringe?
Where can I get a flu shot?

Source: Minnesota Department of Health; United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevention and Control of Influenza: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
Reviewed by: Lynn Berg, risk and safety director, Allina Medical Clinic; Heidi Gallart, infection preventionist, Allina Health
First Published: 09/10/2003
Last Reviewed: 08/30/2013

When to call your health care provider

In children:

  • fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • bluish skin color
  • not drinking enough liquids
  • not waking up or not interacting
  • being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • seizures
  • flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • fever (more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) with a rash.

In adults:

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • sudden dizziness or confusion
  • severe or persistent vomiting
  • flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.

Flu symptoms

Influenza is a respiratory (nose, throat, lungs) illness caused by influenza viruses (germs). Commonly known as the flu, influenza can cause mild to severe illness.

You may have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • fever or feeling feverish
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or body aches
  • headache
  • fatigue (feeling tired)
  • diarrhea and vomiting (more common for children than adults).

If you have these symptoms, you should:

  • stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without using fever-reducing medicine). Even if you don't have a fever, you may still have the flu and can spread it to others if you have other flu symptoms.
  • get plenty of rest
  • drink fluids, including water
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • wash your hands often, especially if you are in contact with others
  • watch for changes in your symptoms to make sure they do not get worse
  • treat the symptoms (talk to your pharmacist or health care provider for suggestions)
  • take flu antiviral medicine if your health care provider prescribes them. These medicines fight viruses, like the flu. They can help make your symptoms milder and shorten the time you are sick.

Who is at risk for flu complications?

If they get influenza, some people may end up on the hospital or possibly die because of flu-related complications. That is why annual flu shots are especially recommended for:

  • adults 65 years and older
  • children age 5 and younger
  • pregnant women.

The flu can also make chronic health problems worse. People with medical conditions like these should get an annual influenza vaccination:

  • asthma or lung disease
  • heart disease and stroke
  • kidney or liver disorder
  • metabolic disorders (such as inherited or mitochondrial disorders)
  • endocrine disorders (such as diabetes)
  • anemia and other blood disorders
  • muscle or nerve disorders, such as seizure disorders or cerebral palsy, that can lead to breathing or swallowing problems
  • weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS or other diseases, long-term treatment with steroids, cancer treatment
  • anyone 6 months through 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment (they could get Reye Syndrome)
  • people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 40.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Influenza, ic-ahc-14772; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Minnesota Department of Health
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department; Heidi Gallart, infection preventionist, Allina Health
First Published: 11/18/2009
Last Reviewed: 08/30/2013