Anyone can get the flu–even those of us who are healthy–and the fact is that serious problems related to the flu can happen at any age. As we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, fighting the flu has become even more important.
Fortunately, there are simple steps that can be taken to protect you and your family against the flu, especially if you or your loved ones are at high risk of developing flu-related complications.
There are a few groups who are higher risk for serious problems related to flu, including:
- Children younger than five, especially those younger than two
- Adults aged 65 or older
- Pregnant women
- Women who have given birth within the past two weeks
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
The flu primarily spreads by droplets, such as when people cough or sneeze. However, it can also be spread from touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and subsequently touching your mouth or nose. Flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, and fatigue.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months and older gets an annual flu vaccine, which protects against the most common influenza viruses based on research.
How the Flu Vaccine Works
Flu vaccines are made from vaccine viruses that have been inactivated (in other words, killed) or weakened, so they cannot make you, your child, or those you care about sick. Once you get the vaccine, your body produces antibodies–which takes about two weeks–that help prevent infection or reduce the risk of severe disease if you are exposed to the common flu viruses for this year.
The most important thing to know is that flu vaccines are safe and do not cause illness. The most common side effect after a flu shot is soreness where the injection is given, but that usually goes away after a day or two.
Preparing to Fight Flu During Pregnancy
According to the CDC, flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women of reproductive age who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from flu, including illness resulting in hospitalization.
Flu also may be harmful for a pregnant woman’s developing baby. Getting vaccinated also can help protect a baby after birth from the flu because pregnant mothers pass antibodies onto the developing baby during her pregnancy. Pregnant women should get a flu shot and not the nasal spray flu vaccine.
Where should a pregnant woman get vaccinated?
There are many different options for pregnant women to receive the flu shot, including a health care provider’s office, such as Coastal Family Health Center, or a local health department, free clinic pharmacy, or even some supermarkets. All these places give flu vaccines that are licensed and approved for use, and many free clinics and health departments will have free flu shots to distribute in their communities.
Can a breastfeeding woman get a flu vaccine?
Mothers who are breastfeeding can and should get the flu vaccine to protect themselves from flu. Getting vaccinated reduces mothers’ risk of getting sick and of passing the flu on to their babies. This is especially important for children younger than 6 months old since they are too young to receive the flu vaccine themselves.
Locations with Free Flu Vaccinations
The following locations will be distributing free flu vaccinations while they have supplies. For more information, call the location to confirm they have vaccinations and make an appointment to get your flu shot.