Not Too Early, Not Too Late: October is the Best Time for Your Flu Shot
October may be the optimum month to get your flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends anyone who is eligible be vaccinated by the end of October. That includes pregnant women, adults age 65 and older, children younger than five and people who have long-term health conditions that put them at a higher risk.
While health officials can’t predict the severity or length of the flu season because it from year-to-year, getting a flu shot is still the best way to protect yourself against the flu. It lowers your risk of getting the flu by about half.
Flu Peaks December Through March
“December through March is when we typically see flu cases peak,” says Nicole Froio, R.N., BSN, clinical director of Crozer-Keystone’s urgent care centers. “It’s recommended that you get your flu shot before flu season, but not too early since the vaccine typically only lasts for about five or six months.”
After you get the flu vaccine, it takes about two weeks to be effective. That’s when the antibodies that provide protection against infection are fully developed. Each year, scientists develop a new vaccine that they have determined will protect against strains predicted to be common that season. Though there have been times when predictions were incorrect, people who got flu shots still had less severe symptoms than those who did not.
“The vaccine doesn’t guarantee that you’re not going to get the flu, but it does lower your chances and makes cases less severe if you do happen to get it,” says Froio. “No one likes getting a shot, but it’s worth it to lower your risk.”
Symptoms of the flu are more severe than a common cold and can include muscle or body aches, headache, fatigue, fever and chills, among others. Even more serious complications like pneumonia, sepsis or inflammation of the brain or heart could develop in serious cases. Long-term health problems like asthma or heart failure can also be worsened by the flu.
Flu is Easily Transferred
The flu is easily transferred from person-to-person through something as simple as a cough or sneeze. Touching anything that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes also puts you at risk for contracting the virus.
“Even if you have the vaccine, you still need to be mindful about washing your hands properly and avoiding sick people during peak flu season months,” says Froio.
Children younger than six months old, people with life-threatening allergies to vaccine ingredients and people who are feeling ill should not get vaccinated. Some people experience mild reactions like soreness, redness or swelling at the spot their shot was given. It is rare to experience significant side effects to the vaccine.
“Healthcare providers have made finding a place to get a flu shot as convenient as possible,” says Froio. “At urgent care centers, for example, you can walk in and get a flu shot without an appointment. So take advantage of them and protect yourself.”