It’s that time of year again — flu season is just around the corner.
You’ve probably already started seeing signs around your doctor’s office or local pharmacy raising awareness about upcoming vaccine availability. But even though the flu shot is a common and annual health event, that doesn’t mean you don’t still have questions.
Here are the answers to top questions about the flu shot so you’ll know the best way to protect yourself this flu season:
Q: Who needs to get a flu shot?
A: According to recommendations from the CDC, everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine. While certain people are considered more high-risk for developing the flu, getting a flu shot is considered universal for anyone over 6 months of age.
Q: When do I need to get a flu shot?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting a flu shot as soon as they become available. Since the vaccine takes about two weeks to develop antibodies in your body, it’s best to make sure you’re prepared as soon as possible — ideally by October. However, flu vaccines will continue to be offered throughout the flu season — which can last until May — so don’t forgo your vaccine just because you think it’s “too late.”
Q: Are there any potential side effects?
A: Contrary to popular belief, the flu vaccine will not give you the flu. But there is a chance you will experience mild flu-like symptoms after receiving your vaccine. Those who get the shot may experience swelling, aches or a low-grade fever. Those who get the nasal spray may experience a runny nose, sore throat or headache. Keep in mind these side effects will be short-lived and are nowhere near as serious or uncomfortable as actual flu symptoms.
Q: Where can I get a flu shot?
A: Visit your doctor’s office, local clinic, pharmacy or health department to receive your vaccine. In some cases, your child’s school, college health center or even your office may provide flu vaccines to make protecting yourself even easier. If you still aren’t sure where to go, you can use this Vaccine locator map to find other options near you.
In addition to getting your vaccine as soon as possible, take extra care to protect yourself during flu season by getting plenty of rest, eating a balanced diet and washing your hands frequently.
If you're looking for more information on the flu and how to avoid it, download our guide: "How to Get Rid of the Flu or Not Get It At All."