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The Flu Shot and Diabetes

Each year people with diabetes are offered flu vaccinations. Should you get an annual flu shot if you have diabetes?

Who Should Get a Yearly Flu Vaccine:

  • Everyone with diabetes over the age of six months.

Who Should NOT Get the Flu Vaccine:

  • People who are allergic to eggs (they are used in the production of the vaccine).

A yearly flu shot is highly recommended if you have diabetes, according to M. Donna Younger, MD, at Joslin Diabetes Center. Diabetes puts you at a higher risk of getting the flu, particularly if your diabetes is not well controlled. Having the flu also makes it more difficult to manage diabetes.  It’s important to get a flu shot when you have diabetes, so you can prevent these risks.

How Well Does the Flu Shot Work?

The flu vaccine is 70-90 percent effective and takes two weeks after the shot for your immunity to build up.  It’s a triple vaccine against three types of influenza strains that public health officials predict are most likely to strike in a given flu season.  The flu shot is effective for about six months.

Cases of flu usually peak in January or February, but you can still get infected any time up until May.  Although it is recommended you get the vaccine as soon as it is available in the fall, even January is not too late.

If You Get the Flu With Diabetes

Should you get the flu when you have diabetes before you get the vaccine or despite it, Younger recommends that you contact your primary care provider right away.  There are also other treatments for the flu, but they aren’t as effective as getting the vaccine.  Tamiflu, for example, has to be taken in first 48 hours and continued for a week.  In order to be prepared, you should also have a “sick day plan” made with your health care team.

“We also encourage others in your family over six months years old to get the vaccine as well, so the flu is not passed around the house,” Younger says.

Prepare yourself for the flu season and get your vaccine so you can avoid the flu and its complications when you have diabetes.

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