Vaccination is the most effective method for preventing the flu and its potentially severe complications. There are three types of influenza vaccine:
- There are two inactivated flu shots:
- The regular (intramuscular) flu shot may be given to almost anyone, including healthy people, babies over the age of six months, those with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women.
- The intradermal flu shot is approved for people ages 18 to 64.
- The nasal spray, a weakened Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV) is reserved for healthy people ages two to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.
All types of flu vaccines are very safe; neither the injectable (inactivated) vaccines nor the live attenuated (nasal spray) vaccine can cause influenza.
While everyone is advised to get a flu vaccine each flu season, it's especially important that certain people get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing them.
Some people are particularly advised to get vaccinated against flu. These include people with the following conditions or those in close contact with them:
- Pregnant women
- People age 50 years and older
- People of any age with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, immuno-suppressing diseases, such as cancer, HIV or rheumatological conditions such as lupus
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Household contacts of person at high risk for complications from influenz;
- Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children younger than six months of age
- Healthcare workers
People who should not be vaccinated include:
- Individuals who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
- Those who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past
- People who have developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine
- People who are ill with fever
In addition to flu vaccination, the BC Health Clinic recommends that all faculty, staff and students take the following flu/respiratory disease precautions:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick as well.
- Cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm or your upper shoulder, not into your hands.
- If using a tissue to your nose or mouth, immediately dispose of the used tissue in a wastebasket and wash your hands.
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. If soap and water is unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand gel.
- Avoid sharing food, drink or utensils.
What do I do if I come down with a flu-like illness?
The majority of individuals who contract flu viruses will not need to seek care from a health care provider unless pregnant or sick with an underlying chronic medical condition, such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, heart or lung problems, or a weakened immune system. If you are in a high-risk category, contact your health care provider. Students should call the BC Health Clinic at 718.951.5580.
Faculty, staff and students who are ill with flu should remain at home for at least 24 hours after being fever-free (without the aid of medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or aspirin (Excedrin) or other drugs that lower temperature.) A mild, lingering cough may occur, but barring any other flu symptoms, this cough should not prevent students from returning to class.
Not sure if you have flu or a cold? Check out the self-assessment tool and learn more about how to take care of yourself.
For more information on the flu and on flu vaccination, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.