All About Flu Shots
Our Flu Clinics for 2022 have ended. Flu shots can be received if you happen to come in for an office visit for other care needs.
Flu season typically starts in the fall and can last until early spring. We’ve put together some frequently asked questions about the flu and the vaccine.
Many local pharmacies also offer the flu shot. If you get your flu shot outside PacMed, please let your doctor know at your next visit or with a MyChart message.
FAQs about the Flu
Please contact your primary care provider’s office for their recommendation. Flu shots are generally recommended by the end of October, but are still effective when given through late winter.
The flu, also known as influenza, is an acute respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. These are found worldwide and are spread through sneezing and coughing. Typically, it takes one to four days from the time of exposure to the viruses to the onset of illness.
Symptoms include a fever higher than 100⁰ F, headache, muscle aches and weakness. Usually, flu symptoms come on abruptly. By comparison, with a cold you can often feel the symptoms coming on before you start feeling really lousy.
Influenza (flu) is a contagious disease that affects the lungs and can lead to serious illness, including pneumonia. Even healthy people who get the flu can be sick enough to miss work or school for a significant amount of time. They can even be hospitalized. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.
Some people have a greater risk of serious complications from the flu, and getting a yearly flu vaccine is especially important for them. This includes pregnant women, young children and older people. It also includes people with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
For a complete list of who needs the flu shot, follow this link: www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/whoshouldvax.htm
Everyone older than 6 months should get the flu shot, especially those who have chronic illnesses like asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease or weakened immune systems.
Some people, however, should not get the flu vaccine. If you have any severe allergies to any part of the vaccine or have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome, speak with your primary care provider before getting the shot.
Yes. The flu vaccine is safe. Flu vaccines have been given to hundreds of millions of people for more than 50 years and have a very good safety record. Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other partners to ensure the highest safety standards for flu vaccines.
Talk with your health-care provider or pharmacist about which flu vaccine is recommended for you.
Typical flu symptoms usually do not require medical attention. But if you are a healthy adult and are not at risk for complications, you should contact your doctor if you have unexplained fever and trouble breathing, or if your symptoms are getting worse.
People with some conditions are at high risk for complications if they get the flu. See a list of who is at higher risk here: www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm.
If you are at risk for severe influenza or complications of influenza, you should contact your doctor if you:
- develop symptoms of the flu, including fever and either a cough or sore throat—OR—
- have had close contact with someone who is definitely known to have influenza.
Note: Call your doctor rather than visit. Unless you need urgent medical care, please call rather than visit your doctor’s office, clinic or hospital. Your health care provider will determine over the phone whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.
Flu vaccine can be given with mild illness (diarrhea or mild upper respiratory tract infection with or without fever). Moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever is a general precaution for vaccination. Your doctor will decide if it is appropriate to administer the flu vaccination based on your symptoms.
Some people report having mild reactions to flu vaccination. The most common side effects from flu shots are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur. If these reactions occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days.
If you are sick, you should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has passed (without the use of fever-reducing medicine). You should avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from infecting others. Some people are at risk of serious complications from the flu.
The flu vaccine will protect you for one flu season.
The flu vaccine introduces inactivated strains of the flu virus, which prompts your body to make antibodies to fight it. This means that when you are exposed to the live flu virus, your immune system recognizes it as an invader and goes to work on eliminating it from your body.
The flu shot does not contain any live flu virus, so it cannot cause the flu. Some people do get a sore arm or redness where they got the shot. Sometimes, low-grade fever, headache or muscle aches can occur for a day or two.
Also, it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to give you protection. So, if you were exposed to the flu right before you got the vaccine, you may still get sick.
People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when a sick person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can enter the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person also might get the flu by touching a surface or object (a door knob, countertop, shopping cart, etc.) that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.
People with flu can infect others beginning one day before symptoms start and up to seven or more days after becoming sick. Although it is possible to pass the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, most flu cases result from a person who has symptoms passing the virus to another person. Children, especially younger children, might be contagious for longer periods. Learn more here: www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm.
- The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand lotion.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- If you or your child gets sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you (or your child) stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
- If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice. This may include information about how to increase distance between people and other measures.
For the latest information about the flu, visit the CDC’s flu web pages: www.cdc.gov/flu/about.
Flu shots received during a visit with your doctor will incur the normal fees for your doctor’s visit. However, for many insurance plans there is no additional charge for adding a flu shot to your visit. Many insurances cover the flu shot through these clinics at no charge to you. The cost for insured patients depends on the contracted rate with your insurance.
If you are concerned about costs we recommend you call your insurance to confirm coverage before coming in. PacMed will bill your insurance directly for your flu shot. Flu shots are also available for patients without insurance. If you do not have insurance, please come prepared to pay cash.
The cost of the flu shot depends on your age (because different types of vaccines are recommended for different age groups).
- $80 for ages 65+ or for those with weakened immune systems
- $50 for ages 19-64 years old
- $23.44 for children ages 6 months-18 years old
- Can the flu shot give you the flu? (No.) Do I really need a flu vaccine every year? Find out the correct answers by reading the CDC’s list of common flu misconceptions: www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm.
- Looking for printable information? Check out “The Flu and You”, a printable PDF file: www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/fluandyou_upright.pdf
- King County Public Health offers some great flu information: http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/communicable/immunization/fluseason.aspx
- How can you prevent the flu in kids? Here’s advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics: www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Preventing-the-Flu-Resources-for-Parents-Child-Care-Providers.aspx
This message was created using information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) websites.