Flu season in the U.S. typically runs throughout winter, but the epidemic season can start as early as October and last all the way through May, peaking from December to March. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC recommends that everyone ages six months or older get a flu shot each year, usually by October if possible. However, it’s not too late to get a flu shot if you haven’t already. Influenza might peak at a certain time each year, but sickness doesn’t respect the calendar. You can get flu during spring and summer, and the best way to prevent or mitigate the illness is to get vaccinated.
Who needs a flu shot?
The CDC offers a complete breakdown on its website of who needs a shot and who should avoid it each season. Most people ages six months and up need to get immunized against flu, but there are restrictions, including:
- People younger than six months old
- People with allergies to the ingredients used in flu vaccines
- People with certain medical conditions, such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome
If you have an egg allergy, you can now get immunized against flu, but you should talk to your doctor first to learn about your options and risks. Pregnant women can also get vaccinated, but again, it’s best to see a doctor to check on dosage requirements. Barring medical problems or allergies, everyone older than six months should get a flu shot.
Is flu really a big deal?
For many people, influenza runs its course without the need for medical intervention. Keep in mind, though, that getting flu is not like getting a cold. While both conditions share certain features, symptoms of flu can be much more severe, forcing people to stay in bed for several days without relief. While most flu victims recover just fine, flu viruses have been known to cause much more devastating, even life-threatening, conditions.
The CDC doesn’t track flu-related deaths for adults, but they do report estimates on mortality rates associated with each flu season. Since 2010, it’s estimated that 140,000 to 710,000 people have been hospitalized due to flu-related complications. Flu-related deaths are estimated at 12,000 to 56,000 since 2010. Influenza can also be costly. Millions of people get sick each season, leading to lower productivity, lost wages and decreased profits worldwide.
How can I protect myself and others?
Getting vaccinated against seasonal flu virus is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and others in your community against the spread of flu. You can also:
- Stay away from other people if you get sick
- Practice good hygiene by washing your hands in warm, soapy water for 20 seconds to eliminate germs
- Avoid sharing food with others and wiping down shared surfaces, such as doorknobs
It’s important to note that you might still get sick if you get a flu vaccine, but the vaccine didn’t cause your illness. Flu vaccines cannot give you flu. In fact, if you get flu after being immunized, you’re more likely to recover quickly and suffer fewer symptoms.