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Flu shots

Who needs a flu shot? Most adults and children 6 months of age and older. How often? Every year.  

Why get a flu shot every year?

Flu viruses are always changing. And your protection from the shot decreases over time. If you got a flu shot last year, it won’t protect you this year.

Getting the flu is no fun. From the yucky symptoms to the “time out” you have to take on your life, it’s best to avoid the flu. Getting your flu shot reduces:

  • Flu illnesses and doctor visits
  • Missed work, school and fun
  • Flu hospital stays and deaths

Can you still get the flu if you stay up to date on your flu shots? Yes, and studies show that the shot makes the symptoms less severe.


When is the best time for a flu shot?

The best time is before the end of October. If you’re late, it may still help you. It only takes about two weeks to start protecting you after getting the shot. The flu peaks in February and can be active into May. 

Where can you get a flu shot?

Do you have health coverage? Many health plans include flu shots for no extra cost, so check with your plan. You can also find sites that offer the flu shot. Or get it at your:

  • Primary care physician’s office
  • Pharmacy
  • Clinic or health center

Who can get a flu shot

Who can get a flu shot

Most people can get a flu shot

The flu shot is a good idea for most people. And the best idea for people at higher risk for serious problems with the flu. Adults age 65 and older are one group at higher risk for these problems. So are pregnant people. And those with certain chronic (long-term) conditions. If you're at high risk, check with your doctor about getting a flu shot. It could save you from a serious health problem later on.

Some people shouldn’t get the flu shot

Children younger than 6 months are too young. Anyone with a severe allergy to ingredients in the flu shot shouldn’t get it. Talk with your doctor first if you:

Other tips to avoid the flu

Getting a flu shot is the best way to avoid the flu. But you’ll also want to: 

  • Stay away from people who are sick – if you’re sick, stay home
  • Cover your cough 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean phones, computer keyboards and anything else you touch often at work and at home

How flu happens

The flu is a virus that spreads from person to person. Coughing, sneezing or even just talking can spread the flu through tiny droplets from the nose and mouth. It can also spread when people touch something that has the flu virus on it. Then, they touch their nose, mouth or eyes. The flu can spread before people even know they have it. 

What to do when flu happens

You can probably spot the signs and symptoms of the flu. These can last a few days or a few weeks:

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Feeling very tired
  • Vomiting or diarrhea (watery poop)

Not everyone will have every symptom, like fever. And vomiting or diarrhea is more common in children.

Prescription and over-the-counter medicine can help you feel better, faster:

  • Antiviral medicine: Ask your provider for a prescription. This medicine works best if you start it within two days of having flu symptoms. It may shorten the time you have symptoms.
  • OTC medicine: You can also try over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to manage the symptoms, like fever, cough or runny nose. 

Many people rush to get an antibiotic when they feel bad. But this type of medicine doesn’t work on viruses (like the flu).

If you get the flu, you’ll also want to:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Call your provider if symptoms get worse

Is your child younger than age 5? They’re at higher risk for serious problems from the flu. It’s common for them to need health care for the flu. Check with your child’s primary care physician (PCP) if you have questions or concerns about their health. And be aware of these warning signs:

  • Bluish lips or face
  • Chest pain
  • Dehydration (no urine for 8 hours, dry mouth, no tears when crying)
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Fever above 104°F or any fever in children less than 12 weeks old
  • Fever or cough that improve but then come back or get worse
  • Ribs pulling in with each breath
  • Failure to be alert or interact when awake
  • Seizures
  • Severe muscle pain (child refuses to walk)
  • Worsening of chronic health conditions

Getting a flu shot every year is the best way to protect them. Learn more about flu in young children.

Mercy Care members

It’s easy to get your flu shot

Just call your PCP. You may be able to get a flu shot with a nurse visit at your PCP office. Or you can find a network pharmacy that gives the flu shot.

When you find a pharmacy, call first. Then you can make sure they can give flu shots to everyone in your family before you go.

Not yet a member?

Learn about becoming a member in Mercy Care Medicaid plans or Mercy Care Advantage.