Flu Facts: Frequently Asked Questions
Date Issued: 10/26/2016
Did You Know?
- The flu season starts in the fall and ends in the spring.
- Each year, an average of 5 to 20 percent of the people in the U.S. comes down with the flu.
Below are answers to common questions about the flu vaccine (shot), the flu virus and your health plan coverage to help you stay informed and healthy.
Flu Vaccine FAQ
Q: Who should get a flu vaccine?
A: Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine. Talk to your doctor to see if the flu vaccine is right for you and your family.
Q: What if I have a child under six months old?
A: Children younger than six months have a high risk of developing serious complications if they get the flu but are too young to get a flu vaccine. That is why it is especially important to protect them from the flu.
All members of the household, including children six months and older, should get a flu vaccine. All caregivers (including parents, teachers, babysitters, nannies and relatives) should also get a flu vaccine if they will be caring for a child under six months old. Caregivers should take everyday preventive actions like covering their mouths when they cough, washing their hands often with soap and water and using hand sanitizers.
If you think your young child may have the flu, see your doctor immediately.
Q: Should pregnant women get the flu vaccine?
A: Yes. Because pregnant women and women who have just given birth are at higher risk for severe illness and complications from the flu than women who are not pregnant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all women who are pregnant or who might be pregnant during the upcoming flu season receive a flu vaccine. The flu vaccine can be given at any time during pregnancy, before and during the flu season.
Q: Why do I need to get a flu vaccine each year?
A: The types of flu virus (known as strains) that are around each year can vary. Flu vaccine is made before it is needed based on strains expected to be present in the upcoming season. That’s why even if you received a flu vaccine last flu season, you will need this year's flu vaccine.
Q: Can people who are allergic to eggs get a flu vaccine?
A: The CDC has changed its recommendations for people with egg allergies.
- If you have a history of egg allergy and the only reaction you have had after exposure to egg was a rash (hives), then you may receive the flu vaccine for the 2016–2017 season.
- If you have a history of egg allergy and have experienced symptoms other than a rash (hives), such as angioedema (a serious allergic reaction with swelling of the face or throat), trouble breathing, lightheadedness, persistent nausea and vomiting or required emergency medical treatment such as epinephrine or other medical help, you may still receive a flu vaccine for the 2016–2017 season. However, the flu vaccine should be administered in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting (such as a hospital, clinic, health department or physician office). A health care provider who is able to recognize and manage a severe allergic condition should be present when the vaccine is given.
- If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to a flu vaccine, you should not get a flu vaccine again – regardless of whether or not you have an egg allergy.
Q: Do children need two vaccines?
A: Your doctor will decide what dosage is needed. These are general dosing guidelines:
- Adults and children nine years and older will need only one flu vaccine.
- Children younger than nine years who have never had a flu vaccine will need two doses.
- Children younger than nine years who had a flu vaccine in a previous year will need either one or two doses. Talk with your child’s doctor to see which dose is right for your child.
Q: Are there side effects from the flu vaccine?
A: You cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Some minor side effects that could occur are soreness, redness or swelling at the site where the shot was given; a low fever; and body aches. These problems, when they occur, may begin soon after receiving the shot and usually last one to two days. On rare occasions, a flu vaccine can cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. If you have a serious reaction, call your doctor.
Q: What if I am afraid of needles?
A: While there is some pain associated with the flu shot, it is usually less painful then getting the flu! Ask your doctor if other options, such as those described below, are available and right for you:
- The intradermal shot is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in adults 18 through 64 years of age. It is injected into the skin, rather than the muscle, and uses a very fine needle that is 90 percent smaller than the needles used for regular flu shots.
- The Jet Injector is approved by the FDA for flu vaccine administration in adults aged 18 through 64. A jet injector uses high pressure to deliver the vaccine as a fine stream of fluid that penetrates the skin and enters the muscle tissue without using a needle. Currently only one flu vaccine (Afluria®) is approved by the FDA for administration via jet injector and only one jet injector device (PharmaJet Stratis® 0.5ml Needle-free Jet Injector) is approved for administration of flu vaccine.
Q: What about the nasal spray?
A: The nasal spray flu vaccine is NOT RECOMMENDED for the 2016–2017 flu season by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Q: When should I go for my flu vaccine?
A: You should get your flu vaccine as soon as it’s available. Federal and state officials as well as vaccine manufacturers expect there will be seasonal flu vaccine available to all people who want to get vaccinated. The CDC advises that the best time to get the flu vaccine is by the end of October. However, the CDC also advises that it is not too late to get the flu vaccine through the fall, winter or spring, since flu season usually continues through May.
Q: Where can I go to get a flu vaccine?
A: Your doctor can usually give you the seasonal flu vaccine. Medicaid and Child Health Plus members under the age of 19 must see their doctor to get a free flu vaccine and are not covered for a free flu vaccine at any other location. All other members can also get a flu vaccine at participating pharmacies. Call the pharmacy ahead of time to make sure they are giving flu vaccines and to find out the hours they are being given. Also ask if there are any age limits.
To find a nearby location that participates in the EmblemHealth vaccine program:
Q: Will EmblemHealth cover the cost of a seasonal flu vaccine? What about copays, deductibles or coinsurance?
A: EmblemHealth covers seasonal flu vaccines given by in-network or out-of-network providers for plan members (except for Medicaid or Child Health Plus members under the age of 19, who must go to their own PCP). There is no copayment, deductible or coinsurance for most members when the only reason for the office visit is to get a flu vaccine; this also applies to pharmacy visits. Plan members who see their doctor for other reasons and also get a flu vaccine must pay the applicable copayment, deductible and coinsurance.
Flu Virus FAQ
Q: Are some people more likely to develop serious complications from the flu than others?
A: Yes. People with chronic conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, HIV infection, heart disease or people with poor immune systems are at greater risk for developing serious complications from the flu. So are pregnant women, young children, people who are obese (BMI of 40 or more) and people older than 65 years of age.
Q: What more can be done to protect against the flu?
A: Seasonal flu is spread from person to person through tiny droplets made when a person with flu coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can be spread up to six feet away. That is why it is important to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough and avoid people who are sick.
Seasonal flu can also be spread by touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose. To prevent spreading the flu, you should wash your hands often with soap and water, use hand sanitizers and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like keyboards and doorknobs that may be contaminated.
Also, eat right and get enough rest. However, the single best thing you can do to avoid getting the flu is to get a flu vaccine.
Q: What are common flu symptoms?
A: Symptoms of the flu usually come on suddenly and may include a runny nose, sore throat, fever (usually high), headache, muscle aches, chills, fatigue and dry cough. Digestive symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur but are more common in children than adults. Some people with flu do not develop a fever or may only have some of the symptoms listed above. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
Q: I think I already have the flu. What should I do now?
A: Stay home and stay away from other people except to get medical care. Call your doctor for advice. If your doctor decides that you need to be treated with medicine, it will be most helpful when started within the first two days that symptoms appear.
Get immediate medical attention if you have one of the following warning signs1:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Fever with rash
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or interacting
- Being too irritable to be held
- Symptoms get better but then return with fever and a bad cough
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Unable to eat
- Trouble breathing
- No tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
Q: How can I find out more about the flu?
A: Visit the websites below to learn more:
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)