Flu Facts: Frequently Asked Questions
Date Issued: 9/3/2015
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 US comes down with the flu.
Below are answers to common questions about the flu vaccine (shot or nasal spray) and health plan coverage to help you stay informed and healthy.
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. You will need this year's flu vaccine to fight this year's seasonal flu. 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: 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 some people more likely to get the flu than others?
A: Yes. People with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart disease or people with poor immune systems are at greater risk for getting the flu. So are pregnant women, health care workers, young children 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 coughing, sneezing or touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes and nose. To prevent spreading the flu, you should wash your hands often, use hand sanitizers, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough and avoid people who are sick. Also, eat right and get enough rest. However, as always, 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 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. 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
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
Fever with a rash
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Severe or persistent vomiting
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 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 nasal spray is available for non-pregnant healthy people ages 2 to 49. Children ages two through eight years of age who are getting vaccinated for the first time require two doses at least 28 or more days apart to make sure they are protected from the flu.
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.
Q: Are there side effects from the flu vaccine?
A: The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so 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. The nasal spray is made with live, weakened flu viruses. The viruses in the nasal spray do not cause the flu. 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: 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:
- Go to emblemhealth.com/pharmacy and click on the “Find a Pharmacy” link.
- Call our Flu Information Line at 1-877-859-9001.
- Call Customer Service at the phone number listed on the back of your member ID card.
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 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.
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)