Typically flu season is usually thought of as occurring in winter however, the severity and timing varies from year to year. As per researchers going back to the last 35 years, flu activity in the United States peaks in February.
To best protect yourself and your family regardless of the specific timeframe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) always recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October. (CDC, 2021)
Fall Flu Season
In general, flu season can start anytime in late fall, peak high in mid-to-late winter (between January or February), and continue through early spring. On average, flu season lasts about 13 to 15 weeks and usually ends by mid-April, but it can linger into May.
It is good practice to get a flu shot before the flu season starts so that you don’t get sick. A late flu shot can still provide protection, especially when flu season lingers into spring months.
Will Flu Season Stay Mild This Year?
As of week 4 per the CDC, the United States is experiencing low flu transmission across the country.
This slow start can likely be attributed to the added restrictions in place to combat COVID-19 — like mask-wearing, physical distancing, and avoiding crowded places. Unlike past years in which there have been plenty of cases fueling the spread of the flu around early December, this year the flu has had less of a foothold. It’s unknown how flu season will continue to play out in the coming months.
The key recommendation from experts is simply not to let your guard down and continue to wash your hands, wear a mask, and most importantly, get a flu shot.
If you don’t get a flu shot and you don’t wear a mask when you’re supposed to, your chances of contracting the flu, COVID-19 or common cold are going to be higher than ever. (Verywell Health, 2020)
Why is it More Important Than Ever to Get a Flu Shot This Year?
As you know, being vaccinated against the flu won’t protect you from COVID-19 but it will certainly help to prevent you and others from getting sick with the flu. This could save the lives of many others and help lessen the burden on our healthcare system. (Insider, 2020)
Common Flu Shot Misconceptions
“Getting a flu shot will cause me the flu.”
Anyone can still experience the flu after getting a flu shot, but the symptoms likely won’t be as severe as they would have been without the vaccine.
“I’m healthy, I don’t need a flu shot.”
Healthy people can still get the flu so why wait until you’re exposed to someone who has the flu? You may not have symptoms, but you could unknowingly infect others at the same time, including people at risk for flu complications.
The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get the yearly flu vaccine and that you get it as soon as it becomes available. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to produce the antibodies that will protect you from the flu. But if you missed the earlier vaccination time, it is still valuable to get the vaccine even in January or later. (CDC, 2020)
“Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 Feb. 2021, www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm
“The Flu Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 July 2018, www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm#:~:text=In%20the%20United%20States%2C%20flu%20season%20occurs%20in%20the%20fall,last%20as%20late%20as%20May
Vincent Iannelli, MD. “The Start, Peak, and End of Flu Season.” Verywell Health, 23 Mar. 2020, www.verywellhealth.com/flu-season-from-start-to-peak-and-end-2633835
Larson, Jennifer. “When Is Flu Season and Why There Is a Flu Season in the First Place.” Insider, Insider, 2 Nov. 2020, www.insider.com/when-is-flu-season