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Flu Shots for Adults Ages 50 and Older

The flu (influenza) is caused by a virus that is easily spread. It can be a lot more serious than you think, especially for adults ages 50 and older. A flu shot protects you and others from the flu. It’s best to get a flu shot each fall, before flu season starts. You can get it at your health care provider’s office or a health clinic. Drug stores, senior centers, and workplaces often offer flu shots, too. If you have questions, ask your health care provider. And remember: A flu shot could save your life!

Flu facts

  • The flu shot will not give you the flu.

  • The flu can be dangerous—even life-threatening. Every year, thousands of people die of complications from the flu.

  • The flu is caused by a virus. It can’t be treated with antibiotics.

  • Influenza is not the same as the “stomach flu,” the 24-hour bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea. This is most likely due to a GI (gastrointestinal) infection, not  flu.

  • You need to get a flu shot each year. Last year’s shot will not protect you from this year’s flu.

Healthcare provider preparing to give man injection in upper arm.

Symptoms of the flu

Flu tends to come on quickly. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and muscle aches. Upset stomach and vomiting are not common for adults. Some symptoms, such as fatigue and cough, may last a few weeks.

How a flu shot protects you

There are many strains (types) of flu viruses. Medical experts predict which 3 or 4 strains are most likely to make people sick each year. Flu shots are made from these strains. When you get a flu shot, inactivated (“killed”) flu viruses are injected into your body. These cannot give you the flu. But they do prompt your body to make antibodies to fight these flu strains. If you’re exposed to the same strains later in the flu season, the antibodies will fight off the germs.

Adults ages 50 and older should get flu shots

If you’re ages 50 and older, you should get a flu shot, especially if you’re in any of these high-risk groups:

  • People with chronic health problems (such as diabetes, chronic lung disease, asthma, heart failure, or those with kidney, liver, blood, neurologic, or metabolic disorders)

  • People receiving certain medical treatments

  • People who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities

  • Caregivers and household contacts of babies younger than age 6 months

  • People who are American Indian or Alaskan Native

  • People who are very obese

  • Women who are pregnant or plan to get pregnant during the flu season

  • Health care workers

Who can’t get a flu shot?

  • People who are severely allergic to a component in the vaccine

  • People who have had life-threatening reactions to flu vaccine (including Guillain-Barré syndrome)

  • People with egg allergies or a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome should talk with their health care provider to see if they can get the flu vaccine

  • A person who has a high fever (the shot can be given after the fever goes away)

What about the nasal vaccine?

You may have heard about a flu vaccine that’s sprayed into the nose. This nasal vaccine is only for healthy people ages 2 to 49. So it may be an option for others in your family, but not for you.

Take a look at these VA brochures and fact sheets to learn more about the flu.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 11/2/2018
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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