Flu season is right around the corner - here's what you need to know


When it comes to viruses, COVID-19 has been at the forefront of our minds for more than 6 months, but with influenza season on the horizon, now is the time to start planning ahead.

"Flu season doesn't really start until mid-December," said Holly Nieusma, DO, family medicine physician at McLaren Greater Lansing Holt Family Practice. "A flu shot lasts 9 to 10 months, so we usually encourage people to get it in early October, but we're already starting to give the vaccine to some people this year."

The importance of a getting a flu shot is even greater this year, with the risk of COVID-19 still lingering. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is possible to be infected with both the COVID-19 and influenza viruses at the same time, a scenario which Dr. Nieusma says would be devastating. "We don't know about the long-term damage from COVID-19 that could certainly make flu infection much worse," said Dr. Nieusma.

There is a common misconception that you can get influenza from a flu shot. Thankfully, that's not the case. "It's not possible to get influenza from a flu shot because it is not a live virus vaccine," said Dr. Nieusma. "Your body may mount an immune response, which is what we want because it gives you the protection against the flu. Those effects could include fever, chills, and headaches, but they are typically minor."

While Dr. Nieusma recommends a flu shot for everyone 6 months of age and older, it's especially important for people with health issues like COPD, diabetes, and heart disease to get vaccinated because of the additional risks the influenza can pose for them.

Whenever you decide to get your flu shot, it's important to remember that it doesn't start protecting you right away. "It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to work, so if you get the flu immediately after your flu shot it may not have had enough time to take effect," said Dr. Nieusma.

Seeing a primary care physician is critical to staying healthy throughout the year. Click here to find a doctor accepting new patients in your area.