Discussion Title Fight the Flu: What You Need to Know

Flu season has arrived and now is the time to get your flu vaccine. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of six months receive a flu vaccine each year. Join the Fairfax County Health Department Deputy Director for Medical Services Dr. Raja'a Satouri for an Ask Fairfax! chat on Friday, Oct. 25 at 11 a.m. to discuss the flu, vaccinations and winter health. For more information about the flu, visit

Raja Satouri : Hello and welcome everyone.  I'm very happy to participate in today's online chat about influenza.  Flu is an important topic and impacts the entire community, so I'm happy to answer any questions that you have about flu and flu vaccine.

Anonymous User : Is there an difference between the shot and inhaler version? Is one recommended over the other?

Raja Satouri : CDC does not recommend one flu vaccine over the other. The important thing is to get a flu vaccine every year. Flu vaccines can be given in two ways: as a shot or nasal spray. The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine that is made with killed influenza virus. The nasal spray flu vaccine is made with live, weakened influenza viruses. The age indications for the different flu shots vary. The nasal spray vaccine is approved for use in most healthy people 2 through 49 years of age who are not pregnant. All nasal spray flu vaccine for the 2013-2014 season will be made to protect against four flu viruses (quadrivalent flu vaccine).

Anonymous User : I was going to get my daughter a flu shots but the guy at the pharmacy wouldn't give it to her because she was feeling sick. Is that right? Do I still need to get her a shot?

Raja Satouri : There is no problem with getting a flu shot when you have a minor cold. However, there are some people who should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician. These include people who have a moderate-to-severe illness with or without a fever.  But, once you recover, you should get vaccinated. 

Hope : Does Fairfax County have free flu shots?

Raja Satouri : The Health Department offers flu vaccine for $25. Some people may be eligible for free flu vaccine. Contact one of the Health Department's District Offices for more information about whether you're eligible:

Lois : Why does everyone tell me that I need to get the shot EVERY year? I don't know of any other shots that I need ot get every year.

Raja Satouri : Flu viruses change every year.  Each year the world's health experts assess the types of viruses that are circulating and develop flu vaccine based on the most common viruses that are most likely to affect people.  Over time, the body's immunity to flu viruses declines. So, getting vaccinated each year provides the best protection against influenza throughout flu season.

Randy P : I'm 9 weeks pregnant and am worried that getting a flu shot will harm the fetus this early in its development. Should I get one?

Raja Satouri : Yes. The seasonal flu shot has been given safely to millions of pregnant women over many years. Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies. There are lots of reasons to get a flu shot if you are pregnant. Getting a flu shot protects pregnant women from the flu. Studies also have shown that getting a flu shot while you are pregnant can decrease your baby’s risk of getting the flu for up to 6 months after birth.  Pregnant women are more likely to become severely ill with the flu than women who are not pregnant; pregnant women with the flu have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery; and when you get a flu shot, you and your baby (after birth) get the flu less often. 

Molly : I know everyone says you can't get the flu from the flu shot. Right? But the first time I ever got the flu shot was like two years ago and I got the flu a week later!!! My parents want me to get it again this year but I don't want to get sick again! Help!!

Raja Satouri : The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The most common side effects from a flu shot are a sore arm and maybe a low fever or achiness. The nasal spray flu vaccine might cause congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or cough. If you do experience them at all, these side effects are mild and short-lived.  Getting sick shortly after receive a flu vaccine is a coincidence. The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to work after receiving it so it is possible to get an illness before you body builds up enough protection from the vaccine. You did not get sick from the vaccine.

Joannie : I saw that there is both trivalen and quadrivalent flu shots - which one should I get?

Raja Satouri : CDC does not recommend one flu vaccine over the other. The important thing is to get a flu vaccine every year.  Traditional flu vaccines made to protect against three different flu viruses (called “trivalent” vaccines) will be available this season. In addition, this season, flu vaccines made to protect against the same three flu viruses plus and addition influenza B virus (called “quadrivalent” vaccines) also will be available. By adding another B virus to the vaccine, quadrivalent vaccines may give broader protection. Both types of vaccine are widely available in our community.

Burge : Good morning. I had an allergy to raw eggs when I was a kid. I'd get really sick and throw up. I'm now 27. Can I still get the flu shot? I haven't had a reaction since I was young. Thanks.

Raja Satouri :

People who have ever had a severe allergic reaction to eggs may be advised not to get vaccinated. People who have had a mild reaction to egg, that is, one which only involved hives, may receive a flu shot with additional precautions. Make sure your health care provider knows about any allergic reactions. Most, but not all, types of flu vaccine contain small amount of egg. In addition, new this year, an egg-free flu shot is available for people 18 through 49 years of age. This can be used for people who had any severity of egg allergy in the past.

Anonymous User : I don't have health insurance. Can I get a free flu shot somewhere

Raja Satouri : While the Health Department offers flu vaccine for $25, you may be eligible for free flu vaccine. Contact one of the Health Department's District Offices for more information about whether you're eligible:

Anonymous User : My girlfriend just got her flu shot for work. She said there's a new shot now that doesn't go as deep into the skin and was easier. Is there a new type of flu shot this year? I hate needles.

Raja Satouri : Yes, the intradermal flu vaccine is a shot that is injected into the skin instead of the muscle. The intradermal shot uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot. The intradermal flu vaccine works in the body in the same way as a regular flu shot. In addition, people 2 to 49 years of age who are healthy and not pregnant can receive the nasal spray flu vaccine.

Alexia : What is the best medicine that I can give my 2 year old if he gets a cold or the flu?

Raja Satouri : Consult a doctor if your child develops a fever (100°F. orally, or 102°F. rectally) and chills, cough, sore throat, headache, or muscle aches.  Treatment may be available for flu if started early enough.  These anti-flu medicines can be given to children at a very young age.  You should follow the doctor’s directions for taking the prescribed medication. There are several over-the-counter medicine for cold and flu symptoms. You should check with doctor or pharmacist for guidance.

Adrian : The last time I got a flu shot I got sick! I'm not getting another one.

Raja Satouri : The flu vaccine did not give you the flu. Getting sick shortly after receive a flu vaccine is a coincidence. The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to work after receiving it so it is possible to get an illness before you body builds up enough protection from the vaccine.

Frances : Last year they said on the news that the flu shot was only 60% effective. If that's true, how is a flu shot the best wasy to prevent the flu?

Raja Satouri : The flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu. The effectiveness of flu vaccine can range widely from season to season. The vaccine’s effectiveness also can vary depending on who is being vaccinated. At least two factors play an important role in determining the likelihood that flu vaccine will protect a person from flu illness: 1) characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as their age and health), and 2) the similarity or "match" between the flu viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against and the flu viruses spreading in the community. I'd encourage you to learn more about the effectives of flu vaccine by visiting the CDC's website:

Raja Satouri : Thank you all very much for your questions.  I have enjoyed today’s online chat.  We have now run out of time, but I’d like to conclude by saying that I hope everyone will take time to get a flu vaccine this season and remember to take these simple steps that will protect yourself, your family and the whole community: wash their hands properly and frequently, cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the sleeve of his or her shirt, and stay home when sick. Remember, you can learn more about the flu and flu vaccine on our website, and more about the simple steps you can take to prevent here:

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