Flu vaccine early in the season is best defense against flu virus
Flu season generally begins in October and continues into spring, even as late as May. Flu shots are recommended as early as possible in the season to help prevent infection with the influenza virus, which changes from year to year. As the virus adapts to vaccines being used, new vaccines must be created to combat it. It's important to get your flu shot every year because last year's vaccine may not work for this year's flu. The flu shot is the most effective way to avoid catching the virus.
Who should get the flu shot
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends flu shots for everyone over six months of age. People who are particularly vulnerable to the flu include people over 65 years old, people with compromised immune systems (such as those who've undergone chemotherapy or are living with HIV), pregnant women, and young children (under five years old). There are some people who should not receive the flu vaccine, including those who are allergic to certain flu shot ingredients. The CDC guidance on who should take flu shot precautions may be helpful.
Where to get a flu shot and what to expect
You can get a flu shot at your doctor's office or at a local clinic, such as an urgent care center, and at many drugstore pharmacies. There is no special preparation needed. The shot is done quickly in your upper arm and the person administering the shot will apply a small bandage where you received the injection. You may have some soreness and redness in your arm afterward and some people experience mild side effects such as slight fever, muscle aches or headache. Because these symptoms are flu-like, there is a common misconception that the flu shot actually causes the flu. These mild side effects, however, are not to be confused with the flu itself. It's also possible that a person who receives a flu shot may already have a slight "bug" which coincides with getting the shot. Severe reactions to flu shots are very rare.
If you have any questions or concerns about getting a flu shot, be sure to talk with your doctor.