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Influenza Immunization

Influenza immunization information if you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a newborn

​​​​​​​​​What is influenza?

Influenza is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs that’s caused by a virus. Influenza can happen any time during the year, but it’s most common in the winter.

How does influenza spread?

Influenza spreads:

  • when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or even talks
  • if you breath in the virus
  • if you touch something that has the virus on it (like hands or a door knob), then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.

You and others can spread influenza before symptoms start.

How serious is influenza?

Most people who get sick with influenza will get better. The most common problem that ca happen with influenza (called a complication) is pneumonia, a type of lung infection.

Influenza can also make other health problems worse. Even healthy, young people can get very sick and die from influenza.

The number of people who get sick with influenza is different year to year. On average each year, more than 12,000 people in Canada have to stay in the hospital because of influenza, and 3,500 die from it.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

Influenza starts suddenly and may include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • not feeling hungry or not wanting to eat (poor appetite)
  • feeling tired

Other symptoms may include feeling sick to your stomach (nausea), vomiting (throwing up), or having loose stool (diarrhea). These are more common in young children.

How can I protect myself and others against influenza?

The best way to protect yourself and others from influenza is to get the influenza vaccine. 

You need to get immunized every year because the influenza virus changes. The best time for you and your family to get immunized is usually October or November, before the influenza season begins. But you can get immunized any time during the influenza season, which starts in late fall and lasts through the winter.

Other ways to protect against influenza include:

  • wash your hands often with warm water and soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • cover your cough or sneeze into your arm. You can also use a tissue, not your hand
  • stay home when you’re sick

Who should get the influenza vaccine?

You should get the influenza vaccine if you're age 6 months or older. Everyone is at risk of influenza.

This vaccine is very important if you’re pregnant. When you're pregnant, you have a higher risk of complications from influenza.

Babies less than age 6 months are too young to be immunized, so they also have a higher risk of complications. It’s important for anyone who cares for your baby to be immunized. This includes parents, grandparents, siblings, and anyone else who cares for your baby.

I'm pregnant. Should I get the influenza vaccine?

Yes, you should get the influenza vaccine. You can get it any time during your pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant and get influenza, you’re at higher risk of having serious complications and needing to be treated in the hospital. The illness could also cause a problem for your baby, such as being born too soon (premature birth).

Getting the influenza vaccine while you’re pregnant:

  • protects you and your baby
  • protects your baby for a short time after birth
  • lowers the risk of your baby being born premature, being too small, or having a low birth weight

How else can I protect myself and my baby?

To protect you and your baby, make sure everyone around you is also immunized against influenza. This is especially important for people who live in your home.

Is it safe to get the influenza vaccine while pregnant?

Yes. Studies show that the influenza vaccine won’t harm you or your baby if you get it while you’re pregnant.

The virus in the injected (given by needle) influenza vaccine is inactivated (killed). It can’t cause influenza. The injected vaccine is recommended if you’re pregnant.

The nasal spray influenza vaccine is a live vaccine with a weakened living virus. This type is not recommended if you’re pregnant. It’s safe for you and your baby to have contact with someone who gets the nasal spray influenza vaccine.

I'm breastfeeding. Should I get the influenza vaccine?

Yes. There’s no risk to your baby if you get the influenza vaccine while you’re breastfeeding. Both types of influenza vaccines (injected and nasal spray) are safe to get when breastfeeding.

As a new parent, you’re busy taking care of your baby and possibly older children. It’s important that you take care of yourself by getting immunized.

I have a baby less than 6 months of age. How can I protect them from influenza?

Babies less than 6 months of age can’t get the influenza vaccine. This is why it's important for anyone who has contact with your baby to get the influenza vaccine.

You and others can spread influenza before symptoms start. It’s not enough for people to stay away while they are sick. Ask them to be immunized.

For more information about immunization

Current as of: August 17, 2022

Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services​​​