The very young, the very old and people with certain chronic health conditions — even if the conditions are well managed — have a higher risk of becoming dangerously sick from the flu. It is especially important for these people to avoid getting the flu, so they and everyone around them should be especially sure to follow these precautions.

Get Vaccinated

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot each year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s panel of immunization experts (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommended that all people aged 6 months and older get a flu shot.

When should I get vaccinated?

The best time to get a flu shot is in the fall, as soon as the vaccine becomes available.

Is the flu vaccine effective against all types of flu and cold viruses?

The flu vaccine is your best protection against flu viruses. The vaccine does not provide protection against non-flu viruses that can cause colds and other respiratory illnesses. It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between a cold and the flu based on symptoms alone, but our Cold or Flu? checklist can help.

The flu vaccine is called "quadrivalent" because it will protect against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses most likely to be circulating this season.

Why do I need to get a flu vaccine every year?

Flu viruses change from year to year, which means two things. First, you can get the flu more than once during your lifetime. The immunity (natural protection that develops against a disease after a person has had that disease) that is built up from having the flu caused by one flu virus strain doesn't always provide protection against newer strains of the flu. Second, a flu vaccine made against flu viruses going around last year may not protect against the newer viruses. That is why the flu vaccine is updated to include current viruses every year. Because of these reasons, a new flu vaccine is needed each year.

How and where do I get a flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine is widely available at Mass General and in your community. Please call your primary care physician's office to see if they have vaccine and the best time to come in for a flu shot.

Mass General Centralized Flu Shot Clinic - Available to all Mass General Patients (age 5 and up)

The MGH Central Flu Clinic is now closed. Please visit your local pharmacy or contact your primary care provider's office if you still need the vaccine.

Practice Healthy Habits

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose. Most healthy adults may be able to give the flu to others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick.

That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

Tips to protect your family's health

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. You can also use alcohol-based hand cleaners
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way
  • Keep your home and work spaces clean
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people