At Sheldon’s Express Pharmacy

What is the flu (influenza)?

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often experience fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue (tiredness). Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

Some people, such as senior citizens, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year with a flu shot.


What is the flu shot?

The "flu shot" is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that's given with a needle, usually in the arm. The vaccine takes effect approximately two weeks after it has been administered.


Who should get a flu shot?

The CDC recommends everyone ages 6 months and older* get a flu shot, including healthy people, and people with chronic conditions. In general, it is recommended that anyone who wants to reduce his or her chances of getting the flu should be vaccinated. It's especially important for some people to get vaccinated, including:

  • People who are at high risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia if they get sick with the flu. This includes:
    • People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease
    • Pregnant women
    • People 65 years and older
  • People who live with or care for others who are at high risk for developing serious complications. This includes household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.


Who should not get a flu shot?

Certain individuals should not be vaccinated without first consulting a healthcare professional. These patients include:

  • Those with a severe allergy to chicken eggs
  • Those with allergies to certain medications and preservatives, including certain antibiotics and Thimerosal (preservative)
  • Those who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past
  • Those who have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting the flu vaccine previously
  • Those who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait until they recover before getting a flu shot


What are the common side effects of the flu shot?

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 where the shot was given
  • Fever (low grade)
  • Aches


If these problems occur, they begin soon after the shot and usually last 1 to 2 days. Almost all people who receive influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it.