Estimates show that thousands are infected with the flu each year in the U.S. alone. Influenza can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. Even healthy individuals can get sick and spread the virus to others.
The Flu vaccine causes antibodies to build up in the body that will provide protection against the infection. Each year, a seasonal vaccine is created to protect against the influenza virus, that will be most common that season (as indicated by research). Typically, Flu vaccines protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1), an influenza A (H3N2), and an influenza B virus.
With the rare exceptions, everyone 6 months of age and older is recommended to be vaccinated against the flu each and every season. It is important to remember that you are not only protecting yourself, but you are protecting those who are at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill from the flu. Research shows Flu vaccination can decrease Flu related hospitalizations and deaths. The vaccine can be administered via intramuscular injection, intradermal injection and nasal spray. The nasal spray is recommended for children 2-8 years of age.
After administration, it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body to provide intended protection. With that in mind, influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, with peaks in January. It would be wise to be get vaccinated in the fall, before the season hits its height.
The flu vaccine CANNOT cause flu illness. The flu shot is either made with an inactivated/non-infectious virus, or with no flu virus at all. The nasal spray does contain live viruses. These live viruses area weakened and also CANNOT cause the flu. It is interesting to note,the live weakened viruses have been designed in a way that they cannot infect warm temperatures, like your lungs!
Common side effects to the shot include: Soreness, redness and swelling at injection site, low grade fever, and aches. Side effects to the nasal spray include: Runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscles aches, and fever. Side effects are typically mild and short lived. Allergic reactions are uncommon but serious, and all children should be monitored after receiving any vaccination.
For more information on flu vaccines http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm