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Is It Too Late to Get My Seasonal Flu Shot?

 Is It Too Late to Get My Seasonal Flu Shot?

Healthcare providers typically recommend getting your annual flu shot in September when possible or by the end of October at the latest. Why? Fall is when seasonal influenza viruses start to spread, and getting your flu vaccine early gives your immune system enough time to strengthen its response — before flu season kicks into high gear. 

But what if your plans to get this year’s flu vaccine got derailed by work obligations, family responsibilities, holiday plans, or general life commitments? Is it too late to get that shot in January or February? 

Luckily, it’s not — even in the midst of the latter half of the flu season, our team of vaccination experts at American River Urgent Care in Orangevale, California, still highly recommend getting your annual flu shot at our walk-in clinic ASAP. Here’s why. 

Seasonal influenza explained

The flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by an infection with the influenza virus. Influenza circulates through populations around the world all year long, becoming more active and widespread during the cold-weather months. 

 While there are many different strains of influenza, two main types — influenza A and B — are considered seasonal, meaning they spread routinely and come back very strongly every fall and winter. Most people are exposed to these two strains innumerable times throughout life. 

The typical flu season timeline 

Seasonal flu viruses circulate extensively during the fall and winter. In the United States and the rest of the northern hemisphere, seasonal flu activity typically accelerates in October, reaches peak levels between December and February, and gradually declines through May. 

 Even so, the timing and duration of each flu season can vary depending on various factors. Sometimes, seasonal flu activity starts earlier, ramping up in September instead of October. It can also peak later or longer.   

Benefits of an annual flu shot

Getting your annual flu shot can protect you from becoming infected with various seasonal influenza virus strains. And if you do happen to get infected, being vaccinated against those strains greatly reduces your chances of becoming seriously ill or dying.     

 The influenza vaccine prevents millions of flu infections and related medical visits every fall and winter in the U.S. It also prevents thousands of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. 

 In addition to safeguarding your personal health, getting your seasonal flu shot helps break the chain of transmission to reduce community spread. This provides an added layer of protection for high-risk individuals like newborns, older adults, and cancer patients.  

The best timing for your flu shot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone aged six months and older, with rare exceptions. Getting your flu shot in September or early October, just before seasonal flu activity typically starts to increase, is ideal. 

After you get your flu shot, it takes about two weeks for your immune system to develop the antibodies it needs to defend itself against a seasonal influenza infection. Getting your shot in mid-September gives you strong protection by October; you can expect that protection to last all season long.

A late flu shot protects you, too

Given that the flu season tends to peak between December and February, you may think that getting a “late” flu shot any time after the start of the new year is something of a lost cause. But that’s just not the case. When it comes to protecting yourself against the flu, “better late than never” has its benefits, too.  

Seasonal influenza is still actively circulating in March, April, and May, albeit at gradually decreasing levels (at least typically). Plenty of people still catch the flu in the late winter and spring months, and getting vaccinated later in the flu season protects you for the remainder of the season. 

Skipping that late-season flu shot, on the other hand, leaves you vulnerable to a late-season influenza infection, and the resulting illness may be more severe.  

Stop by for your flu shot today 

Still need to get your flu shot yet? American River Urgent Care can help. Stop by our walk-in clinic in Orangevale, California, today — we’re open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm every weekday and from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on weekends. You can also call our office or click online to book an appointment at your convenience anytime. 

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