Flu and Pneumonia Shots

Having the flu can be dangerous for anyone. But it is extra risky for people with diabetes or other chronic health problems.

In general, every person with diabetes needs a flu shot each year. Talk with your doctor about having a flu shot. Flu shots do not give 100% protection, but they do make it much harder for you to catch the flu for about 6 months.

For extra safety, it's a good idea for the people you live with or spend a lot of time with to get a flu shot, too. You are less likely to get the flu if the people around you don't have it.

The best time to get your flu shot is beginning in September. The shot takes about two weeks to take effect.

If you have a cold or other respiratory illness, wait until you are healthy again before having your flu shot. And don't get a flu shot if you are allergic to eggs.

You are advised to continue to take the general precautions of preventing seasonal flu and other communicable diseases:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread that way. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.


What to do if You Have Diabetes and Symptoms of Flu

Talk with your doctor now about how to reach him or her quickly by telephone if you think you have the flu. Symptoms of influenza can include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea.

People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Pneumonia Shots

People with diabetes are about three times more likely to die with flu and pneumonia. Yet only one-third of them ever get a simple, safe pneumonia shot.

A pneumonia shot is recommended for anyone with diabetes aged 2 or older. You can get a pneumonia shot anytime during the year. You should get vaccinated again if you are older than 65 years of age if the vaccine was given to them over 5 years before. A pneumonia shot can also protect you from other infections caused by the same bacteria.

Consider the risks everyone faces:

  • 1 out of 20 adults who get pneumonia (a lung infection) dies
  • 2 out of 10 adults who get infection of the blood (bacteremia) die
  • 3 out of 10 adults who get infection of the covering of the brain (meningitis) die

About 10,000 people die each year because of these bacterial infections. A pneumonia shot, however, can help protect you against getting these illnesses. In fact, it is about 60% effective in preventing the most serious pneumonias, meningitis, bacteremia and death.

For more information, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/flu

Other Resources

Pandemicflu.gov — One-stop access to U.S. Government swine, avian and pandemic flu information

Flu Clinic Locator — The American Lung Association collaborated primarily with the CDC, the Influenza Summit and the Immunization Action Coalition to compile a comprehensive database of clinics offering flu shots. To find a clinic near you, click on the link above and enter your zip code.

Protect Yourself Against the Flu — In this Oct. 2012 Diabetes Forecast magazine article, two experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pamela Allweiss, MD, MPH, and Lisa Grohskopf, MD, MPH, share flu-fighting tips.

  • Last Reviewed: June 7, 2013
  • Last Edited: August 29, 2014

Articles from Diabetes Forecast® magazine:

Diabetes Forecast