Young patient receives flu vaccine shot

Flu Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

September 30, 2022

Fall and winter are rapidly approaching, and with those seasons comes another one-flu season. As flu season nears, it is essential to know what the flu is, how it spreads, and what you can do to protect yourself, your family, your friends, and your community.

What Is the Flu?

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by various influenza virus strains. These viruses typically infect the throat, nose, sinuses and sometimes the lungs. Illness from the flu can vary in severity-from mild symptoms to severe illness. In some cases, it can lead to hospitalization and death.

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Flu can spread by breathing in the air when infected people cough, sneeze, or speak. You can also get the flu by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after touching surfaces with the virus. Frequent handwashing, avoiding close contact with others or staying home when sick and wearing a mask while you are sick can help protect other people. And of course, getting an annual flu vaccine is one of the best precautions you can take against the flu.

Why Should I Get My Flu Vaccine?

Most people six months and older should get vaccinated, with few exceptions. Anyone can get the flu, but some people are at higher risk of flu complications. For people 65 and older, there is a different type of approved flu shot intended to provide strong reinforcement to their immune system. It is crucial for people at higher risk to get vaccinated. Beth Israel Lahey Health Primary Care only provides vaccines considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Like a seatbelt can protect vehicle drivers in the event of an accident, getting an annual flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu as it helps lower the chances of significant illness and reduces the risk of transmission.

When Is the Best Time To Get a Flu Vaccine?

In the United States, it is best to get a flu vaccine in early fall (typically in late September or in October), before flu season reaches its peak number of cases. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu. Getting a flu vaccine also helps protect your community at large.

Where Can I Get a Flu Vaccine?

Schedule an appointment with your primary care team to receive a flu vaccine. You can find a doctor on the Beth Israel Lahey Health Primary Care website. If appointment availability becomes limited, please visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's website to find a vaccine location.