When the leaves start falling, it’s a signal colder months are coming. It also means cold and flu season will be on its way soon. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), October is prime time for receiving your flu shot. Getting it now can help you protect yourself as the season ramps up. To prevent seasonal flu, the CDC suggests anyone six months and older receive a flu shot by the end of October.
When is peak flu season?
As it turns out, flu viruses are actually present year-round. However, seasonal flu usually occurs from October to May. And peak flu season—when flu cases are highest— is typically from December to February.
Why flu shots are important
Getting your annual flu shot has lots of benefits for staying healthy. These include:
- Lowering the chance of serious illness. You can lessen your flu symptoms to stop you from becoming very ill. A flu shot is one of the best ways to prevent getting a bad case of the flu each year.
- Protecting friends and others around you. When you get your flu shot, you can prevent the spread of the flu to those around you. This can help protect friends, coworkers, older adults and children.
- Reducing the chance of hospitalization. Your flu shot can also keep you from a hospital stay or from needing intensive and costlier care for flu-like symptoms.
- Safeguarding pregnant moms and their babies. Being vaccinated for the flu during pregnancy can lower the risk of infections or hospitalizations for expecting moms. It also protects babies during their first few months, when they’re too young to be vaccinated on their own.
- Helping to save lives. For some, like children or those living with chronic health conditions, getting a flu shot can be a lifesaving step.
More ways to stay healthy
Your flu shot might be the best way to cut your risk of coming down with the flu, but it’s not the only way. Practicing other regular habits is a good idea, too. Some more ways to stay healthy include:
- Washing your hands. Using soap and water regularly to clean your hands will help keep germs at bay. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can do the trick as well.
- Avoiding close contact with others who are sick. Keeping some distance from those around you who are under the weather is a good idea, until they feel better.
- Covering your mouth and nose. If you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, it’s good practice to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue (or your arm).
- Staying home when you’re not feeling well. When you’re ill, you should take the time you need to rest and recover. This might mean taking a sick day from work or skipping extra errands. By simply staying home, you can give your body time to heal. You also won’t spread germs to others who are out and about.
What do flu shots cost?
Most insurance plans cover the cost of flu shots without any charge. Here are a few options you can explore:
- See if your employer is offering an on-site clinic. This is a quick and easy way to get your flu shot without missing any work.
- Schedule a flu shot with your primary care doctor. Your doctor is a great first resource and can recommend which flu shot may be right for you. They can also administer the vaccine during your office visit.
- Head to your local pharmacy. CVS Pharmacy® and MinuteClinic® offer convenient flu shot options, including walk-in and online appointments. You can also schedule a COVID-19 vaccine or booster while you’re there if you need one. For Meritain Health® members, these locations are in-network as a standard part of the Aetna® network.
Whichever path you choose, just remember when it comes to timing, October is prime time for receiving your flu shot! Once you get yours, be aware building immunity can take about two weeks. So, sooner is typically better to keep you healthy all season long.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice.