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my partner

my friends

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When is flu season?

Flu season is during the fall and winter months, usually peaking between December and February. The flu virus is active year-round, but the highest rate of spread is during these months.

When is the best time to get a flu shot?

The CDC recommends getting a flu shot by early fall, no later than the end of October, although even flu shots in December are valuable. Early doses in July or August may have diminished effectiveness by peak season.

How effective is the flu shot?

On average, according to the CDC flu shots reduce the risk of preventing illnesses 40% of the time. Overall effectiveness varies each year—between 20-60% since 2009—based on the dominant strain and severity of the virus.

Flu vs. COVID-19

According to the CDC, flu and COVID-19 symptoms can look quite similar, while each can be completely asymptomatic while allowing you to spread the virus. It’s one of the reasons getting tested if you’ve been exposed is so important. Here are the common, shared symptoms of each illness.

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy Nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea

Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing) and loss of taste or smell are not frequently associated with flu symptoms. Additionally, sneezing is not a common COVID-19 symptom.

How to Stay Healthy...

According to the CDC, many of the same things that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 will also help you and your family stay flu-free, including social distancing and masking when in large gatherings.

Wash your hands

Use soap and warm water, washing for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Keep your distance

Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick or symptomatic. Keep at least six feet between you and anyone who might be coughing or sneezing.

Stay home when sick

If at all possible, stay home when you are sick. This helps prevent the viral spread at work, school, and other areas you frequent.

Avoid touching your face

Your eyes, nose and mouth are the easiest way for bacteria to get into your system. Keep your hands by your side to avoid ingesting any harmful bacteria.

Latest Flu Season Updates

  • Nov 19, 2021A major flu outbreak at the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor has infected more than 500 students. The CDC is investigating the rapid spread. (NY Times)
  • Nov 19, 2021FDA has authorized COVID booster shots for all fully vaccinated Americans who are age 18 and older for both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. CDC will make the final determination on Friday.
  • Nov 3, 2021CDC has officially recommended the pediatric dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, opening the door for 28 million US kids to be vaccinated. This decision follows "robust" antibody response and "favorable" safety outcomes in kids who received the two-dose regimen in clinical trials. (CDC, NPR)
  • Oct 29, 2021FDA has emergency use authorized (EUA) the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 5 to 11 for. Experts said the shot could bring relief to parents anxious about their children getting sick, though some worry that those most at risk may slip through the cracks. (NY Times)
  • Oct 26, 2021FDA advisory panel has unanimously recommended Pfizer’s low-dose COVID vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. The endorsement was a critical step in getting more kids in the U.S. protected against the virus. The agency doesn’t always follow the advice of its independent committee, but it often does. (CNBC)
  • Oct 21, 2021For individuals who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months ago, the following groups are eligible for a COVID booster shot: (1) 65 years and older, (2) Age 18+ who live in long-term care settings, (3) Age 18+ who have underlying medical conditions, and (4) Age 18+ who work or live in high-risk settings. For people who got the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots are also recommended for those who are 18+ and who were vaccinated two or more months ago. (CDC)
  • Oct 15, 2021U.S. FDA advisers vote to recommend Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine booster for people 18 and older at least 2 months after first dose. (Reuters)
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Flu Season FAQs

  • How much does a flu shot cost?

    Most insurance plans fully cover the cost of flu shots, making them free to most people. However, depending on where you get your flu vaccine, what type of vaccine you are getting, and whether or not you are insured, flu shot costs vary. According to GoodRx, flu shots can cost between $0 and $50, sometimes more.

  • Can I get a free flu shot without insurance?

    Many state and local health departments, as well as free clinics across the country, offer low-cost or even free flu shots. This year, many are arranging COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time, in the same location, allowing the public greater access to vaccinations. In addition, many colleges provide free flu vaccines to their students, and veterans who get healthcare from the Department of Veterans Affairs can get a flu shot at a VA healthcare facility.

  • How much does a flu shot cost without insurance?

    Without insurance, you could pay as much as $50 or more for a flu vaccine, however, there are many opportunities around the country for free flu shots from health departments, local colleges and universities, and other healthcare providers.

  • When are flu shots going to be available?

    Each year, flu shots are generally released to healthcare providers by early September, although availability may be scarce early on. By the first of October, the flu vaccine should be commonly available at all participating providers.

  • When should I get a flu shot?

    Each year is a little different, but flu season generally starts as early as September. Getting a flu shot early in the season - August to October - gives your body the best opportunity to build up immunity to the virus as it does take roughly two weeks for the vaccine to protect you against infection. Of course, if you are unable to get the flu shot early, getting a flu shot later still helps as the virus could last through May.

  • Where should I get a flu shot?

    The flu vaccine should generally be available at urgent care centers, retail clinics, primary care doctor offices, and local pharmacies. While many times you can simply walk in to get a flu shot, it is best to book an appointment online to reduce your wait time.

  • How can I book a flu shot appointment?

    Same-day and next day appointments for flu shots are bookable directly through Solv. Simply search for a flu shot provider near you, find a location, and book a time that aligns with your schedule stating “flu shot” as your reason for visit. Or, just click here to run a search for a nearby provider.

  • Do I need both the COVID-19 vaccine and a flu shot?

    Yes. While there is evidence supporting that the flu vaccine may lower your risk of serious illness from COVID-19, the two vaccines are designed for different viruses and both are necessary. The good news is that many providers will offer both and you're able to receive both simultaneously.

  • How long does the flu shot last?

    The flu vaccine lasts for one flu season as the virus constantly evolves and each year the vaccine is produced to specifically protect against the strand(s) that are prevalent in the upcoming flu season.

  • How effective is the flu shot?

    Each year, the CDC and other organizations conduct studies to determine the effectiveness of the flu vaccine against that year’s flu virus. According to the CDC, recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by about 40%. Of course, there are multiple types and strands of the flu virus including influenza B and influenza A(H1N1), as well as influenza A(H3N2). Generally speaking, flu shots tend to work better against influenza types A & B.

  • Who should get a flu shot?

    According to the CDC, everyone 6 months of age and older should get an influenza (flu) vaccine every season with rare exceptions. For people who are at high risk of developing serious flu complications, including those with compromised immune systems, the flu vaccine is particularly important.

  • Who should NOT get a flu shot?

    The CDC advises that only in rare cases individuals NOT receive the flu vaccine. Specifically, children younger than 6 months of age are simply too young for the flu shot. Additionally, those with severe allergies to vaccines or ingredients in them should avoid the flu vaccine. These allergies may include gelatin, antibiotics, or other ingredients. It’s best to discuss these exceptions with your primary care provider for individualized care.

  • How is the flu spread?

    The flu is largely spread person-to-person. People who have the flu can spread it up to 6 feet away. Most specialists believe that flu viruses are disseminated mostly by droplets produced when flu patients cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets may fall into surrounding people's mouths or noses, or they may be inhaled into the lungs. A person can also develop influenza by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.

  • How can I avoid catching the flu?

    As with many viruses, flu is spread largely from one person to the next. According to the CDC, to avoid catching and prevent spreading the flu, it’s best to avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home from work if you start to feel sick, wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, particularly during peak flu season and when you know you’ve been around potential viral contaminants.

  • What to do if you've been exposed to the flu?

    If you know you have been exposed to the flu virus, it is best to see a doctor right away. Your doctor may prescribe Tamiflu (Oseltamivir), an antiviral drug, that is both a preventer of and treatment for the flu. According to the CDC, an antiviral may shorten the length of the flu and lessen the severity of symptoms if given within the first 48 hours of symptoms. It is important to note, however, that there is no cure for the flu. The CDC states that flu symptoms usually appear 2 days after the virus enters the body (although might take anywhere from 1 to 4 days). And you could spread the virus to someone else before you even realize you're sick. If you know you’ve been exposed, the CDC recommends keeping your distance from others, or even wear a mask to prevent spreading it to others.

Medically reviewed by 
Rob Rohatsch, MD

Updated on Sept 10, 2021