It’s estimated that between 9 million and 45 million people in the United States suffer from the flu each year. Fortunately, getting the flu shot can not only work to prevent you from getting the flu, but it can also help to minimize your symptoms should you catch the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that anyone over the age of six months get a flu shot each year. But when is the best time to get vaccinated?
According to the CDC, you should get the flu vaccine no later than the end of October; however, you can get vaccinated for the flu as soon as early to mid-September.
Before getting vaccinated, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on what it entails, how effective it is, and what the impact of COVID-19 is on the flu this season.
We’re sharing everything you need to know about the flu shot so you can feel confident getting your vaccine this year.
What is the Flu Vaccine?
Before getting vaccinated against the flu, it’s important to know exactly what the flu shot is.
Essentially, getting the flu vaccine causes antibodies to develop in your body (typically within two weeks of the shot) that keeps your body protected against the flu virus. Every year, before the vaccine is created, it is determined what strains of the flu will be most common during the upcoming season.
These strains are then put into the shot so your body can fight them off before you get sick.
Is the Flu Vaccine Effective?
Another good question to ask before getting the flu shot is whether or not it actually works.
The short answer is that the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine varies from year to year, depending on the “match” between the viruses that are in the shot and those that are actually circulating during the current flu season.
How effective the flu shot is can also be dependent on the age and general health of the individual getting the vaccine.
What to Expect After Receiving the Flu Shot
There’s a common misconception that you can get the flu from the flu shot. The short answer is no, the flu vaccine will not give you the flu.
If you experience symptoms after you’ve gotten a flu shot, you’re likely suffering side effects from the vaccine which can last for a day or two after the shot. Typically, these symptoms are quite mild and may include redness, tenderness, soreness or swelling where the vaccine was given.
It is possible to get the flu, even if you’ve been vaccinated.
You should always get tested, however, as your symptoms could be that of a different illness with similar symptoms like pneumonia, bronchitis or the common cold.
Does the flu vaccination protect against COVID-19?
While the flu vaccine cannot protect you against COVID-19, there are many other reasons why it’s important to get the vaccine.
For instance, if you’ve gotten the flu shot and still contract the flu, you’re much less likely to experience severe symptoms, hospitalization or death.
It’s also a good idea to get the flu vaccine this year specifically as health care resources are being tapped heavily due to COVID-19 — being vaccinated against the flu can help conserve these vital resources.
Can you get COVID-19 and the flu at the same time?
Because they are caused by two different viruses, it is possible to have the flu as well as COVID-19 at the same time. It’s unknown how common this is but experts are currently researching to learn more.
Since the symptoms of both illnesses are similar, it can be difficult to know which you might be dealing with so it’s important that you get tested if you are experiencing symptoms of either.
How is COVID-19 similar to the flu?
Both viruses affect the respiratory system and both are extremely contagious; however, COVID-19 and the flu are caused by separate viruses. SARS-CoV-2 is responsible for COVID-19 while influenza viruses cause the flu.
It can be hard to distinguish between the flu and COVID-19 since symptoms are similar so it’s a good idea that you see a doctor and get tested if you’re suffering from symptoms associated with either virus.
While the degree of symptoms can vary with both COVID-19 and the flu, there are several common symptoms for both, including:
- Sore throat
- Fever or chills
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Change in or loss of taste or smell (this is usually more common with COVID-19)
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
If I do catch the flu, where can I get tested for it?
If you’re showing symptoms similar to the flu, you should get tested as soon as possible to prevent spreading the virus and begin a treatment plan. You can get tested for the flu at most doctor’s offices or at your local CareNow® urgent care clinic.
To test for the flu, one of our qualified physicians will rub a cotton swap inside your nose — then that swab will be tested directly in the clinic.
You will receive your test results within 15 minutes. If your test comes back positive, your provider will recommend common over the counter medications along with other supportive treatment options. r In some circumstances your provider may prescribe you antiviral medication to shorten the duration of symptoms and avoid serious illness.