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When’s the Best Time to Get Your Flu Shot?


Flu season is fast approaching. While the 2020-21 flu season saw a greatly diminished spread of flu as a result of measures taken to protect us from COVID-19, it’s still important to get your annual flu shot.

While not as severe as COVID-19, the flu is still a serious concern. For some high-risk patients, the virus can be hazardous and even deadly. This is why it is important to get vaccinated at the right time to ensure you are covered for the duration of the flu season.

What Is the Flu?

The flu, or influenza, is a contagious disease spread by influenza viruses that infect your respiratory system, including your nose, throat, and, at times, your lungs. In most cases, the flu will leave you feeling under the weather and sometimes leaves you confined to your bed while you recover.. However, for some people, the flu can be difficult to overcome and could cause severe illness or death.

The flu is highly contagious and spreads through the air in water droplets when we cough, sneeze, yawn or talk.

Flu Symptoms

Although flu symptoms vary in severity, they usually include the following:1

  • Fever or feeling feverish
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Body pain
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness

However, not everyone gets feverish, and some may experience symptoms so mild they don’t even realize they are sick. While they might not get that sick, they run the risk of passing it on to others.

When Is Flu Season?

Although people can get the flu any time of the year, the most common seasons are fall and winter. It can be difficult to predict exactly when the flu season begins and ends, although most agree it peaks between December and March.

Most of the time, flu cases start climbing around October and don’t fall to their non-seasonal numbers until at least February, sometimes even continuing until May.

What Is a Flu Shot?

The flu can be very difficult to treat, considering most people don’t even realize they have it until they’re in the middle their illness. Antiviral drugs work best if administered within the first 48 hours after contracting the virus and, since it can take days to show symptoms, they are not always an effective solution.

One of the best ways to avoid getting the flu is by getting a flu shot. A flu shot is a vaccination against a particular year’s flu virus strains and can help reduce or eliminate your chances of getting sick.

As millions of people become sick and thousands of people die from the flu each year, getting a flu shot is not only a good idea to prevent you from getting ill but could help reduce the spread of the virus to other, more vulnerable people.

How Do Flu Shots Work?

Vaccinating an elderly person

Like other vaccines, flu shots mainly work by triggering your immune system to produce antibodies that protect against infection with influenza.

Antibodies are Y-shaped proteins specialized to bind to foreign particles like viruses, and they send signals to your body to destroy them. Antibodies usually start developing two weeks after you get a flu shot.

Every year, the strains of influenza change, which means each year’s flu shots will differ. All the flu vaccines in the U.S. contain the ingredients to protect against four flu strains.

The inactive viruses used to make a flu shot are grown in eggs and administered either as an injection or as a nasal spray.2

Flu Shot Effectiveness

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary significantly from person to person and season to season. Factors that affect the flu vaccine effectiveness to prevent or reduce flu illness include:

  • The age of the person being vaccinated: The vaccine may be less effective in older adults, as their immune systems cannot respond as quickly or strongly as a young person’s.
  • The person’s overall health: A sick, overweight, or generally unhealthy person may not respond as well to the vaccine, as their bodies and immune systems are already being taxed.
  • The match of the vaccine with the current flu virus: The antibodies a person receives from the vaccine must be effective against the flu virus they are exposed to.

Flu vaccine effectiveness may vary significantly, from year to year, due to the difficulty in  accurately predict the strains that may appear each flu season. If the prediction is especially accurate, flu vaccines may be more effective that flu season. If predictions are off, the effectiveness of the flu shot may decline dramatically.

Benefits of Getting a Flu Shot

There are many benefits to getting the flu shot, such as not getting as sick or experiencing the serious symptoms of flu each year. Other benefits include:

  • It improves your body’s chance to fight off the virus while reducing the symptoms you experience and possibly ensuring you don’t have to visit the doctor.
  • It can help increase your chances of not getting the flu at all.
  • It can reduce your chances of being hospitalized due to the flu, especially if you are an older adult.
  • It reduces flu symptoms that may worsen pre-existing heart or lung conditions.
  • It can protect pregnant people from flu-related respiratory infections both before and after they give birth.
  • It significantly reduces children’s chances of dying due to the flu.
  • It helps curb the spread of the flu as your body manages to fight the virus off faster, leaving less time for it to infect other people.

Flu Shot Side Effects

Like many vaccines and medications, getting a flu shot may cause a few side effects. The most common ones include:

  • Pain, redness, and swelling where you were injected
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Muscle pain
  • Fainting—but only rarely

These side effects usually subside after a few days.

Who Needs a Flu Shot?

Female doctor sitting in her medical office with stethoscope talking to patient

Getting a flu shot is a great way to reduce your chances of being infected by the influenza virus. However, a flu vaccine is especially important if you are at risk of developing serious complications from getting the flu.

People who should get the flu vaccine to minimize this risk include:

  • People over 65 years old
  • Adults with chronic illnesses like diabetes
  • People who have cancer
  • Those who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS or any other disease that affects your immune system
  • People who have asthma

People who should not get the flu shot include:

  • Infants under the age of six months
  • Those with severe allergies to eggs or any other flu shot ingredients
  • Individuals who have experienced severe adverse reactions to a flu shot in the past

Can I Still Get the Flu if I’m Vaccinated?

Yes, it is possible to get flu even after being vaccinated, especially if you’ve been exposed to the virus within two weeks of being vaccinated or if the antibodies created from the vaccine aren’t effective against a particular strain of influenza.

When Should I Get a Flu Shot?

The best time to get a flu shot is typically in October.3 In most cases, the protection offered by a flu vaccine declines over time, so getting it too early could leave you vulnerable during the final stages of flu season. Getting vaccinated too late could allow you to contract the flu before your vaccine offers complete protection. Getting a flu shot in October will ensure you are protected by mid-November and have optimal protection through the peak flu month of December.

To get more information about the flu shot, to make an appointment to get yours, or to obtain the services of primary care physicians and medical professionals, visit the Crystal Run Healthcare website to locate the center nearest to you or get in touch with one of our telehealth consultants.

Make an Appointment for a Flu Shot here