Should you get the flu shot or nasal flu vaccine?

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You may be wondering if you should get the flu shot or the nasal flu vaccine this season. Here is a...

You may be wondering if you should get the flu shot or the nasal flu vaccine this season. Here is a guide to the who, what, when, where and why of the flu vaccination and an overview of which option is best for you and the members of your family. No matter which option you chose, it is important to get vaccinated against the seasonal flu, especially if you are part of a high risk group.

Who should get vaccinated?

Anyone can get the flu because it is spread through coughing, sneezing and nasal secretions; still, some people are at a higher risk.

Kids. According to the CDC, kids spread the flu virus faster than any other group. Just think about the last time your 4-year-old covered his mouth when he coughed or sneezed. Your child's school may actually require that he or she have the vaccine for enrollment. Check with the Atlanta Public School system for questions about which vaccines your child is required to get before he or she can register as a new student. Note that some children younger than 9 years of age will require two doses of the vaccine. Babies younger than 6 months of age should not get vaccinated.

Older people. If you are 65 years of age or older, you may have a weakened immune system and therefore it is recommended that you should get vaccinated.

Pregnant women. If you are pregnant, your immune system is weakened and it is important to get the vaccine. While getting the flu may not seem so bad, you are at risk for developing a worse condition such as pneumonia.

People who work with babies. Since babies younger than 6 months old do not receive the flu vaccine, you are especially susceptible to infection if you work in a day care or health care facility.

When should you get vaccinated?

Flu season is typically October through May, with the most instances occurring in January and February. If you plan to leave your house at all this year, get vaccinated. Seasonal flu can actually change year to year, so make sure you get the most up-to-date version available annually. Optimally, you should get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available. Contact your local doctor's office to find out if they have the vaccine, and if they don't, when they expect to receive it. If you are moderately or severely ill, you might want to wait to get vaccinated.

How should you receive your flu vaccine?

The flu shot. The injectable vaccine is the killed version of the influenza virus, unlike the nasal vaccine, which is live. It is important to ask your doctor if the version they are using contains thimerosal, a preservative that has a questionable link to Autism. According to the CDC, you are protected two weeks after you receive the vaccine and your protection lasts for a year. The shot is a good option for you if you have a nasal condition that makes breathing difficult. You should also opt for the injectable version of the vaccine if you are pregnant. The shot is also recommended for anyone on an aspirin regimen. Please note that children who receive the injectable vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13) at the same time as the flu vaccine are at an increased risk for seizures caused by fever. Ask your doctor for more information about the best vaccine schedule for your child.

The nasal vaccine. This vaccine contains the live influenza virus and is sprayed up the nose. Like the injectable version, you are protected two weeks after you receive the vaccine and your protection lasts for a year. This method of vaccination is recommended for healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not currently pregnant. Other health conditions that would exempt you from getting the nasal version are asthma, heart or lung disease or a severe allergy to eggs. Check with your doctor if you have any other health conditions before getting any form of the flu vaccine.

Risks. There are side effects associated with getting vaccinated, whether you choose the shot or the nasal flu vaccine. Most side effects are minor such as aches and a sore throat, but some can be serious. Your doctor can educate you on what to expect.

Where can you get vaccinated? Your doctor will be able to provide you with the flu vaccine but you can also get vaccinated at local clinics and drug stores throughout the Atlanta area.

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