This infographic tells you exactly who should not get a flu shot

Be clear: almost all benefits from getting a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say it is much safer to vaccinate against the flu virus than to roll the dice and risk the infection.

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Influenza vaccines save millions of Americans annually from potential suffering, hospitalization and even death due to the influence and its complications.

That said, the CDC cites a handful of exceptions to the rule. People with specific health conditions and the very young are on the shortlist of those who should not take the flu shot In addition, there are some people should absolutely avoid the flu shot nasal spray.

Not sure where you are? Here are the people who have to stay away from the flu shot, how the vaccine can affect them and other measures to be taken to prevent the flu.

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Emily Schiff-Slater


People with potentially lethal allergic reactions to the vaccine

If you have had a previous, potentially lethal reaction to the flu vaccine or its components, you should skip the flu shot, the cautions of the CDC. The concern is that it could happen again. But anaphylaxis, a sudden and potentially fatal reaction at the body level, is extremely rare.

"I've been practicing for 30 years, I've never seen an anaphylactic reaction to influenza vaccination," says Sandra Kemmerly, MD, an infectious disease specialist and health director of the hospital quality system at the Ochsner Health System in New Orleans.

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As for those with an allergy to the egg, the advice of the federal health agency is slightly different. While most (but not all) types of flu shots contain egg proteins, people with egg allergies may still be vaccinated, says the CDC. If you have a history of severe egg allergy, in the sense that you get more than one case of hives when you are exposed to the egg, you should receive the vaccine in a medical setting in order to be monitored.

"The recommendation to the suppliers is if you're going to give flu vaccination to someone who has an allergy to the egg, you should be prepared for any eventuality," says Sean McNeeley, MD, president of the board of the association of urgent care and medical director at University Hospital Urgent Care Network in Cleveland.

Obviously, if you or a loved one are extremely allergic, speak. "If you have suffered from anaphylaxis, it is best that you talk to your doctor about the risks and if you should do it [the flu vaccine]", Says Dr. McNeeley.


People with Guillain-Barré syndrome

The CDC says some people with a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome, or GBS, should not get a flu shot. GBS is a neurological condition that attacks the peripheral nervous system, causing muscle weakness and, in severe cases, paralysis. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is known that people develop this disorder after taking a flu shot.

"If you've had Guillain-Barre, you know you have it, it's very rare," explains Dr. McNeeley.

For every one million doses of flu vaccine given, one or two people develop GBS, according to the CDC. Always talk to your doctor about your GBS before deciding whether to be vaccinated.

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Infants under 6 months

The the flu shot is not approved for children under the age of 6 months. This is one of the reasons why it is so important for pregnant women to get their flu shots.

"If the mother receives flu and a child is within, say, 3 months, the child should have maternal antibodies in the bloodstream" and this should provide at least partial protection against influenza, says the dr. Kemmerly.

These babies are still at high risk of developing serious flu complications. That's why even caregivers and other family members need their shots. Dr. McNeeley's grandchild is not old enough to get flu shots, but "everyone who goes into that house has a chance to shoot for two weeks or is not allowed to get in," he says.


People who are extremely sick

Being sick, for example, having a high fever, pneumonia, or being hospitalized, is not an excuse to skip the flu shot altogether, but it might be smart to wait until recovery is complete.

If you have flu when you are very ill, the vaccine may not be as effective and may prolong the amount of time you need to improve, explains Dr. McNeely, since your body is trying to fight your disease and accumulates enough antibodies to fight the flu.

However, once healed, you should go ahead and get your flu shot with an okay from your doctor. If you simply have a cold, for example, a delicate case of sniffles, it is better to go ahead and get your shot so that your body has time to build resistance to influenza as soon as possible. Talk to your doctor about the symptoms before getting vaccinated if you have doubts.


Some people need to avoid the nasal flu vaccine

The flu vaccine nasal spray is an option for some people aged 2 to 49 years, provided they are healthy and not pregnant. It contains live virus and is not recommended for certain people, Including:

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  • Children under 2 years
  • Adults aged 50 and over
  • Pregnant women
  • People with a history of severe allergic reaction to a previous flu shot or any vaccine ingredient
  • Children 2 to 17 receiving aspirin or salicylate-containing medicines (an ingredient in aspirin used to relieve pain or inflammation)
  • People with a weakened immune system, like those with cancer
  • Children 2 to 4 years with asthma or history of wheezing in the last year
  • People who have taken antiviral drugs for influenza in the last 48 hours
  • People who take care of extremely immune-compromised patients (unless they avoid contact with these people for 7 days after taking the nasal flu vaccine)

    The CDC advises some others to talk to their doctor before opting for the nasal spray vaccine. The list includes children aged 5 years and above with asthma; people at high risk of developing flu complications; people with moderate or severe acute illness; and people who develop GBS six weeks after a previous dose of flu vaccine.


    How to protect yourself from the flu if you can not be vaccinated

    If you are one of the few people who should not be vaccinated, you must avoid flu like the plague.

    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
    • Avoid touching germinal surfaces and then touch eyes, nose or mouth
    • Avoid close contact with sick people
    • Consider wearing a surgical mask
    • Eat healthy, exercise, sleep well and reduce stress in your life

      Doing all the "good things" you should do anyway "will help you fight or avoid flu," says Dr. McNeeley.

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