When Is the Best Time to Get a Flu Shot in 2018?

Flu season is upon us. Again. It’s just one of many contagious viruses you or your kids might get this year. But you can significantly decrease your chances of that happening.

If you’ve had the flu before or fairly recently, you’re either planning on getting vaccinated ASAP or you’re convinced you can stand skipping out this year. Whether that’s intentional or you’re just the type of person to put things off until the last minute (be honest), you might want to consider getting a flu shot sooner rather than later.

Is a flu shot worth the possible side effects? Is it better to “ride out” the flu than risk a vaccine? Here’s the important information you should know.

Is the flu dangerous?

Flu vaccine

Flu vaccine | Scyther5/Getty Images

To get straight to the point: Yes. The flu virus can cause a handful of serious problems. The most common and possibly the most dangerous complication is dehydration, which can result from a combination of vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.

At-risk populations — those who are more likely to suffer serious complications related to the flu — include children, people over the age of 65, pregnant women, and individuals with specific underlying conditions.

The “I’ve had the flu and didn’t die from it, so I’ll be fine” approach to health risk could endanger your life. The reason you have to get a flu vaccine every year is that flu viruses change. The flu you had before won’t be the same flu you could have tomorrow.

Experts advise that getting the flu vaccine is better than taking your chances and getting the flu, even if you’ve read otherwise.

Is a flu vaccine worth it?

You’ve probably heard that you can still get the flu even if you get a flu shot. But is that true?

There’s a common myth that the flu shot causes people to get the flu. This isn’t true. But you can technically still get the flu even if you’ve been vaccinated. Flu vaccines won’t protect 100% of those who get them. There are also many kinds of flu viruses, and it’s possible to become infected with a virus the vaccine won’t protect against.

But this does not mean you shouldn’t get one every year. The pros of getting a flu vaccine far outweigh the cons. Severe adverse reactions are rare, and your chance of hospitalization — and even death — increases if you don’t get vaccinated.

When to get a flu shot and how to get one

Calendar

Calendar | iStock.com/BrianAJackson

According to the CDC, it takes around two weeks for a flu shot to fully protect you against the virus. Because flu season doesn’t have a set start or end date, experts typically recommend you get yours in early fall — by the end of October at the very latest.

The vaccine can still be effective if you get it later than that. But keep in mind that flu season tends to peak in January and February, and there’s no harm in getting it sooner rather than later.

Many insurance plans cover the cost of flu shots. If you bought health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace, your plan automatically covers it.

You can visit your primary care doctor for the vaccination, but you don’t have to make a doctor’s appointment to get one. Your local pharmacy likely offers flu vaccines around this time of year. You might want to call ahead and schedule an appointment before you go.