2 Flu Types = 2 Shots
Protect yourself against the seasonal flu by following the same advice you followed last year: Get vaccinated.
What's different about this year's flu season, however, is that you need two different vaccines—one to protect against the three seasonal flu strains that are circulating and a second vaccine to protect against 2009 H1N1 influenza. The seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you against 2009 H1N1. Likewise, the 2009 H1N1 vaccine isn't meant to replace the seasonal flu shot.
During a "normal" flu season, people may be infected by one of several strains of influenza viruses (type A or B) that zero in on the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu can make life miserable for a week or two for many people—and deadly for some. Seasonal flu cases can peak anywhere from late December to early March.
Your best defense against both the seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 is to get immunized as soon as possible. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved several 2009 H1N1 vaccines, and they are currently offered in some states for certain people. Ask your doctor if the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine is available. If it is, your doctor can tell you if you should receive the vaccine. For both the seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1, you can get vaccinated in one of two ways:
With a flu shot, given with a needle. This form of the vaccine contains killed virus and is approved for all people older than 6 months.
With a nasal-spray vaccine. This form contains live, weakened flu viruses that cannot cause the flu. This form is approved for healthy, non-pregnant people ages 2 to 49 years.
A flu vaccination is most important for children ages 6 months to 19 years old; adults ages 50 and older; pregnant women; anyone with certain chronic diseases; anyone who lives in a nursing home or other long-term care site; health care workers; and people who are in frequent contact with the elderly or chronically ill.
Some people should not be vaccinated for the flu before talking to their health care provider. These are reasons to talk your doctor:
You have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
You have had a severe reaction to a flu immunization in the past.
You developed Guillain-Barré syndrome within six weeks of a previous flu immunization.
Children younger than 6 months of age should not be immunized against the flu, because the flu vaccines have not been approved for that age group.
To find a flu shot clinic near you, use the American Lung Association's flu clinic locator.