When is the best time to get a flu shot?

Article at a glance:

  • Getting a flu shot as soon as vaccines are available (usually September) offers the best protection.
  • The flu is much more serious than the common cold and can cause serious complications.
  • Most people over 6 months old should get a flu shot.

Getting a flu shot is no fun and can be a hassle, but compared to the alternative, it is a very small price to pay. Getting the flu is not like getting the common cold. The flu can leave you absolutely miserable for days and it can cause serious complications, even in healthy individuals.

Flu-associated deaths range from 3,000 to 49,000 people in a typical year, depending on the severity of the viruses that year. In 2017, the CDC estimates that number reached as high as 80,000 flu deaths.  And each year, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for illnesses associated with influenza.

Here’s what you need to know about flu shots.

When to get a flu shot:

Health officials strongly recommend that parents bring their children in as early as September for their flu vaccination. It takes the body about two weeks after vaccination to develop the antibodies that protect against the flu, so you want to make sure you get in before the first influenza outbreak. While earlier is better, you can still get vaccinated in the later winter months. Flu season typically lasts from October to May, so even if you are late, some protection is better than none.

Who should get a flu shot?

Anyone older than 6 months should be vaccinated. It is especially important for those who are at high risk, including children under 5 years old, pregnant women, individuals with chronic medical conditions, seniors 65 years old or older, and people who provide care for those who are at high risk.

Who should not get a flu shot?

You should not be vaccinated if you:

  • Have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
  • Have had a serious reaction to a flu shot before
  • Have Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)
  • Are less than 6 months of age

Also, if you’re currently sick with a moderate-to-severe illness, talk to your doctor first before getting vaccinated.

How flu shots work

Every year scientists predict which will most likely be the three main flu strains that flu season. A vaccine is then created that causes antibodies to develop to provide protection against those strains. While sometimes other strains may surface, the vaccine can still make your flu symptoms milder and help prevent complications. It is important to get a flu shot every year because the flu virus mutates from year to year.

The more (flu shots) the merrier

Flu vaccines work best when a high percentage of people in the community get vaccinated. Not only does the flu have fewer people to spread to, but it also protects those who are at high risk and aren’t able to receive a flu shot — like babies under six months old.

Flu vaccine side effects

Generally, people have no reaction to flu shots. Less than 25 percent of people have some redness and minor swelling at the injection site and about 5 percent experience a slight fever, chills and/or a headache within 24 hours. Symptoms only last a couple of days.

Come in on a convenient flu shot clinic day to get your family up to date on their flu vaccine!

 

Reviewed 10/1/2018 by Dr. Jonathen Bartholomew, D.O.

 

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