What You Need to Know About the 2023-2024 Flu Season


How bad will flu season be this year?

Because there has been significant flu activity in the Southern Hemisphere, experts say flu season in the U.S. could be severe – starting as early as October, peaking between December and February and possibly extending through May.

Doctors say one way to avoid the flu is to get the annual shot, which lowers the risk of getting infected or becoming severely sick from the flu. They say it’s especially important for older adults, because they are at higher risk of complications. It’s estimated that 70% – 80% of flu-related deaths and 50% – 70% of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 and older.

Here’s what experts want you to know:

Who should get a flu shot?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months old and older should get a flu vaccine every year, with rare exceptions.

When should you get a flu shot?

Flu season typically starts in October and lasts through May. Because it takes two weeks for protection to develop, experts recommend getting vaccinated before the end of October. After that, it’s still better to get the vaccine than not.

Where can you get a flu shot?

Doctor’s offices, pharmacies and health departments should all have doses – and most people with health insurance can get it with no co-pay.

Are there side effects?

Some people report having mild side effects, including soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Some may also experience a low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches.

Can you take multiple vaccines at the same time?

There are multiple vaccines that can protect against respiratory viruses – flu, COVID-19 and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). Experts say it is safe to get a flu and COVID-19 shot at the same time. As for RSV, in May the Food and Drug Administration approved the world’s first vaccine to protect older adults from the infection. Since it’s so new, information about receiving the vaccine with others is evolving.

For more information about the seasonal flu and the flu vaccine, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website – cdc.gov/flu or talk to your personal physician and/or pharmacist.