Skip to main content

Answers to the Questions We Get Most Often About Flu Season

Answers to the Questions We Get Most Often About Flu Season

It may be hard to believe, but summer is nearly over. As the northern hemisphere begins tilting away from the sun, shifting toward shorter days and cooler autumn weather, it’s a good time to remind you that the next flu season is right around the corner. 

At American River Urgent Care in Orangevale, California, our seasoned team of contagious illness and vaccination specialists offers a full scope of seasonal influenza services, ranging from annual preventive flu shots to on-site diagnostic testing and antiviral treatments. 

Here, our influenza experts answer nine frequently asked questions we get about flu season. 

1. What is seasonal influenza?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It circulates all year long, becoming more widespread during the cold-weather months. Two main types of influenza (A and B) are seasonal, meaning they spread routinely, come back strongly in the fall and winter, and most people are exposed to them throughout life.

Pandemic flu viruses, by comparison, rarely circulate (three times in the last century) and tend to cause more widespread serious illness and a higher number of deaths. 

2. When does flu season start, peak, and end? 

In the United States, seasonal flu viruses circulate most during the fall and winter. While the timing and duration of each flu season varies, activity typically accelerates in October, reaches peak levels between December and February, and gradually declines through May. 

3. Who is most likely to get seriously ill from the flu?

Although a flu infection can make anyone very ill, certain people have a higher risk of serious illness, health complications, hospitalization, and death. Flu infection is riskier:

People with certain chronic health conditions — including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, asthma, and cancer — also carry a higher risk of serious illness from the flu. 

4. Why should I get an annual flu shot?

Getting an annual flu shot can protect you from becoming infected with the seasonal flu. The influenza vaccine prevents millions of flu infections and associated medical visits every year in the U.S. It also prevents thousands of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. 

On top of protecting your personal health, being immunized against the flu helps break the chain of transmission to reduce community spread. When more people are vaccinated against the seasonal flu, high-risk individuals like newborns and cancer patients are more protected, too.

5. Can the flu shot give me the flu?

The flu vaccine does not infect you with the flu. Vaccines delivered via injection (flu shots) are either made with a small amount of dead (inactivated) flu virus that can’t replicate, or they’re made with specific viral protein strands that can’t infect you. Nasal spray vaccines are made with live flu viruses, but they’re weakened (attenuated) and can’t effectively replicate. 

If you develop mild, temporary flu-like symptoms soon after your flu vaccine, it’s just part of your body’s initial immune system response as it builds better defenses against the flu.

6. What if I’m also due for a COVID booster?

You can get your flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. This includes COVID vaccinations from the initial two-shot series and subsequent recommended booster shots.

7. Can I still get the flu once I’m vaccinated?

Two main factors determine how effective a seasonal flu shot is at preventing infection and illness. Protection varies based on your age, health status, and immune system response to the vaccine; it also varies depending on how well the vaccine “matches” circulating flu viruses. 

Every year, researchers project which flu viruses will be circulating in the coming season, and tailor the seasonal vaccines to their projections. When vaccines are well-matched to the circulating viruses, they offer substantial protection against infection, illness, complications, hospitalization, and death. 

Even if you do become infected with the flu after you’ve been vaccinated against it, you’re more likely to experience a milder, shorter illness as a result. 

8. What are common flu symptoms? 

Influenza symptoms — many of which are similar to COVID-19 symptoms or even a bad cold — often come on suddenly. These include:

A cold is different from the flu in that it comes on more gradually and rarely causes a fever, a headache, or the chills. COVID-19 is different from the flu in that its symptoms take longer to emerge following infection. 

9. What are the benefits of antiviral flu drugs?

If you test positive for the flu at our walk-in clinic, we can prescribe an antiviral drug treatment to help reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms. If your complication risk is high, antiviral flu medication helps protect against serious illness, hospitalization, and death. 

Whether you’re due for a flu shot or in need of flu testing and treatment, we can help. Stop by our walk-in clinic during normal business hours, or call 916-287-8569 or click online to make an appointment at American River Urgent Care any time. 

You Might Also Enjoy...

When to Seek Care for Your Cough

As one of the most common complaints during cold and flu season, a cough may resolve on its own in a relatively short amount of time — or it may linger and get worse. Here’s when to seek expert care for your cough.
How do Vaccinations Work?

How do Vaccinations Work?

Have you ever wondered how a vaccine protects you from disease-causing pathogens like bacteria and viruses? Here, we look in-depth at how vaccination boosts normal immune system function to keep you healthy.
What an X-ray Can Reveal About Your Heart 

What an X-ray Can Reveal About Your Heart 

If you arrive at our walk-in clinic with chest discomfort, shortness of breath, or leg swelling, we may recommend having a chest X-ray. Here’s what this quick and painless diagnostic imaging test can tell us about your heart. 
8 Signs of a Dislocated Shoulder

8 Signs of a Dislocated Shoulder

Your shoulders are the most mobile — and the least stable — joints in your body. As such, they’re more vulnerable to injury, including dislocation. Learn how this painful, joint-deforming injury occurs, and what kind of symptoms it causes. 
What Are My Vital Signs?

What Are My Vital Signs?

Have you ever wondered what your vital signs — or your body temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and rate of breathing — reveal about your health? Take a closer look at these standard assessments here.