As the cold weather months approach, so does flu season. While it may seem inevitable that someone in your family will get sick this time of year, you can help prevent illness by making sure you get the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine.
There are a lot of questions about when to get a flu shot and when you should get a COVID-19 shot or booster, and whether or not you can get both at the same time. To guarantee your shots are most effective, it’s important to educate yourself on the best practices for these vaccines. Here’s what you need to know about flu shots and COVID vaccines.
What’s the difference between the flu and COVID-19?
Although they’re both contagious respiratory illnesses, the flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses. The flu is caused when one of many influenza viruses infects the body, while COVID-19 is caused by an infection with SARS-CoV-2.
Symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are very similar, so it’s important that you get tested if you’re showing signs of either infection. It’s also possible that you can get infected with both a flu virus and COVID-19.
In most cases, those who have COVID-19 don’t notice their symptoms immediately, while flu symptoms tend to appear more quickly. COVID-19 is also contagious for longer than the flu, so it’s important that you follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current quarantine recommendation.
When is the best time to get a flu shot?
You probably noticed reminders to get your flu shot inside your local pharmacy or doctor’s office as early as late summer. But would getting your shot in August mean it won’t last through late winter or spring when the flu is typically rampant?
Flu season can begin as early as the end of November, with cases spiking between December and February. To guarantee your vaccine is effective by the time the flu starts ramping up, you should get your flu shot by the end of October.
How often do I need a COVID-19 vaccine?
The CDC recommends that anyone six months to four years of age get all COVID-19 primary series doses, while those five years and older get the primary series doses plus the booster doses when eligible.
The dosage and booster schedule for COVID-19 vaccines varies depending on your age as well as the type of vaccine you received. You can see the full recommendation on the CDC website.
What month should you get a flu shot?
The flu vaccine should become available by September, meaning you have the months of September and October to get vaccinated before cases start showing up in November and early December. Keep in mind that even if you’re not able to get your shot until November or even December, it’s still a good idea to get vaccinated, as influenza peaks in February and can continue into May.
When to get a flu shot during pregnancy
Women in the first or second trimesters of their pregnancy can adhere to the standard CDC recommendation and get their flu shot in September or October. Those in the third trimester of pregnancy may want to consider getting their vaccine early to help protect their infants during the first few months of their life when they’re still too young to get their own shot.
Can you get a flu and COVID shot at the same time?
Yes, you can get a flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine during the same visit, as long as you’re eligible and the timing is correct. What’s most important is that you follow the recommended schedule for both vaccines.
It’s important to note that a recent study revealed that those who received the flu shot and COVID-19 booster vaccine simultaneously were more likely to experience some form of side effects, including muscle aches, fatigue, and headache. However, these reactions were typically mild and went away quickly.
Does a Flu Shot Help With COVID?
No, getting a flu shot does not help protect you against COVID-19. The vaccine will minimize your risk of getting the flu and make it less likely that you will be hospitalized, but no impact on the COVID-19 virus.
Can a flu shot give me the flu?
There’s a common misconception that getting a flu shot can actually give you the flu. That is not true; however, it is possible to experience some mild side effects from the vaccine such as fever, headaches, and tenderness in the arm at the site of the shot. These side effects are a result of your body producing protective antibodies.
It’s important to note that the flu vaccine takes about two weeks to be effective, so if you’re exposed to one of the influenza viruses in that time, you can still catch the flu. However, there is no link between getting the flu vaccine and then getting the flu.
Should I get the flu shot?
Anyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot each year, although there are a few exceptions. The following people should NOT get a flu shot:
- Infants under the age of six months
- Those who have severe, life-threatening allergies to any ingredient in a flu vaccine
- People who’ve had a severe allergic reaction to the influenza vaccine in the past
If you’ve ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome, talk to a provider before getting vaccinated.
Don’t put off getting your flu shot or COVID-19 vaccine and risk getting sick unnecessarily. CareNow® urgent care clinics can get you vaccinated for both the flu and COVID-19 at a time that works for you.
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