When to Get a Flu Shot

During flu season, it’s important to keep yourself and your family healthy and safe, and getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself against the flu. An important question on your mind might be, when is the best time to get a flu shot

Keep reading to find out when flu season starts, the best time to get a flu shot, who should be vaccinated against the flu, and other information you’ll need to know, including how the shot can protect you from getting sick and any side effects you may experience after getting a flu shot.

When does flu season start?

Fall and winter are peak seasons for flu viruses in the United States. While variable from year to year, flu season typically starts in October — peaking from December to February — and can last until as late as May, according to the CDC. For current flu patterns, the CDC publishes a weekly surveillance report called FluView. This tracks influenza data in the United States and presents results in charts and graphs, so it’s possible to keep up with current trends as they are happening. 

When is the best time to get a flu shot?

The best time to get a flu shot is before the flu starts circulating in your community. Since flu season starts in October, the best time to get vaccinated each year would be between September and October. The CDC recommends everyone be vaccinated by the end of October, but that people should not be vaccinated during July and August — except for young children in some cases. 

Who should get a flu vaccine?

With rare exceptions, any person 6 months of age or older should get an annual flu vaccine. Different types of vaccines may be recommended for different age groups or for people who are pregnant or have chronic health conditions. In general, though, there is no preference for which type of flu vaccine you receive if you are under 65 years of age. There are some vaccines that are only approved for adults, and children under the age of 6 months are too young to get a flu shot of any kind. 

Talk to your healthcare provider before receiving a flu vaccine if you:

  • Have an egg allergy
  • Are allergic to any of the ingredients in the vaccine 
  • Have had a severe allergic reaction to a flu shot in the past
  • Have a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)
  • Are not feeling well (discuss your symptoms)

What you need to know about the flu shot

The flu shot is updated every year to keep up with the evolutions of the flu virus. You need to be vaccinated for the flu every year because older versions of the shot may not provide adequate protection against the newly adapted flu virus. Additionally, your antibodies against the virus can wane over time, so an annual flu shot can help keep those levels high. 

How the flu shot works

The flu vaccine works by using a deactivated or weakened version of the flu virus to train your body to recognize a protein on the surface of the virus, causing your immune system to develop antibodies against the flu. 

Potential side effects of the flu vaccine

Typical side effects of the flu vaccine may include:

  • Soreness, redness, and/or swelling at the injection site
  • Headache 
  • Low-grade fever
  • Nausea
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue

As with any injection, the flu vaccine can occasionally cause fainting. Serious or life-threatening reactions to the flu shot are very rare, and if they do occur, typically present themselves within a few minutes to hours of receiving the shot. 

Signs of a serious allergic reaction include: 

  • Breathing problems 
  • Hoarseness or wheezing
  • Hives
  • Paleness
  • Weakness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness

See a doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. 

What to avoid after getting a flu shot

While getting your annual flu shot is a routine procedure, there are some things you should avoid immediately afterward in order to recover quickly and get back to normal, including: 

  • Strenuous physical activity
  • Emotional stress
  • Dehydration
  • Eating junk food

If you have a headache, muscle aches, or pain at the injection site, acetaminophen is the recommended painkiller. You should avoid taking ibuprofen or naproxen, as they can dilute the effectiveness of the vaccine. A cold compress is another good option for pain relief post-injection. 

Get a flu shot at Neighbors Kingwood ER

Keep yourself and your family safe and healthy this flu season by scheduling your appointment for a flu shot at your Kingwood Neighbors Emergency Center today. The flu shot is free with insurance, or just $25 out of pocket. All Neighbors Emergency Centers are in-network with BlueCross BlueShield, Aetna, and Cigna. Schedule your flu shot today!