To prevent seasonal flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting your flu shot by the end of October, if possible. However, if you didn’t get yours—there’s good news! Getting vaccinated after October still protects you during peak flu season. So, it’s not too late for your flu shot!
In fact, research suggests it’s almost never too late. Many health care providers offer flu vaccines from now until May, if the virus is still spreading.
When is peak flu season?
Flu viruses are actually present year-round. But seasonal flu usually occurs from October to May. And peak flu season, or when flu cases are highest, is typically from December to February.
Timing of this can vary a bit. And since the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been tougher for the CDC to predict how flu cases may rise and fall. However, they do track lots of data, including latest strains, weekly flu activity and more. You can visit www.cdc.gov/flu/season/index.html for up-to-date news.
Another good thing to know—once your receive your flu shot, building immunity can take about two weeks. Therefore, planning one earlier on isn’t a bad idea.
Why flu shots are important
Of course, preventing a bad case of the flu, for you or your close family, is a top reason for getting your flu shot. But there are other important reasons to consider, too. Some of these include:
- Lowering the chance of serious illness. Getting your flu shot can lessen your flu symptoms, stopping you from becoming very ill.
- Protecting friends and others around you. When you get your flu shot, you can prevent spreading the flu to those around you. This can help protect friends, coworkers, older adults and children.
- Reducing the chance of hospitalization. Your flu shot can also keep you from a hospital stay or from needing intensive (or expensive) care for flu-like symptoms.
- Helping to save lives. For some, like children or those living with chronic health conditions, getting a flu shot can be a lifesaving step.
Other ways to stay healthy
Your flu shot might be the best way to cut your risk of coming down with the flu, but it’s not the only way. Practicing other frequent habits can give you a leg up, too. Other ways to stay healthy include:
- Washing your hands. Using soap and water regularly to clean your hands will help keep germs at bay. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can do the trick as well.
- Avoiding close contact with others who are sick. Keeping some distance from those around you who are under the weather is a good idea, until they feel better.
- Covering your mouth and nose. If you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, it’s good practice to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue (or your arm).
- Staying home when you’re not feeling well. When you’re ill, you should take the time you need to rest and recover. This might mean taking a sick day from work or skipping extra errands. By simply staying home, you can heal up. You also won’t spread germs to others who are out and about.
How to schedule your flu shot
First, when you’re ready to schedule a flu shot, check with your local pharmacy. You may also want to see if your employer will be holding any on-site flu clinics.
CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic® offer convenient options, including walk-in and online appointments.
Finally, your primary doctor is a great resource if you have questions about your health conditions or which flu vaccine could be right for you. They’ll also help you keep an eye on your health all year long.
If you’re new to flu shots or get one every year, just remember—it’s not too late for your flu shot!
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant as medical advice.