Fall is almost here, and with it has come new school classes, pumpkin flavored everything - and the threat of the 2016 to 2017 flu season. Each year, a new flu season lasts from October to May. While the flu virus can spread year-round, it infects the population at a much higher rate during the fall, winter, and spring months. This means prevention is key as we trek further into what we want to be a healthy fall.

We of course recommend that you wash their hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and avoid those who are sick to reduce your general risk of getting sick this season. However, a flu shot is also a great preventative tool for you or your family. To help you determine if a flu shot should be part of your healthy living arsenal, we’ve collected and answered many common questions about flu shots below:

Why Should I Get A Flu Shot?

While good habits are helpful for reducing the spread of the flu - and germs in general - the most effective way to protect yourself and your family against the virus is to get vaccinated against it. A flu vaccine is specifically designed to help our bodies fight off invasive flu viruses, helping us avoid the worst of the illness. Flu shots are particularly helpful in keeping us healthy because they vaccinate us against the latest annual strain of the ever mutating flu.

Will My Age, General Health, etc. Impact My Need For A Flu Shot?

Factors like these certainly can increase the benefits of getting a flu shot. Currently, anyone who is 6 months and older can receive a flu shot; however, doctors particularly encourage children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 50 to receive a shot, as these individuals are more likely to develop pneumonia after catching the flu - and may need to be hospitalized as a result. Individuals with compromised immune systems or pre-existing conditions - such as lung or heart illnesses - are also urged to get a flu shot, as the flu can create serious problems for these individuals.

Even if you are not at risk of developing these serious flu complications, however, getting vaccinated can actually help to reduce the number of flu cases each year. Reducing your risk of getting sick helps to ensure you won’t pass the illness on to other community members - such as children who are too young to get a shot, or adults who did not get one at all. It’s a tactic known as herd immunity, and it can make a big difference!

Will My Flu Shot Make Me Sick?

It’s a common misconception that flu vaccinations can make you sick. The viruses that make up the flu vaccine have been inactivated, or killed. This means it is impossible for you to contract the flu from a vaccination. The worst you may experience from a shot are a few minor side effects, such as a low-grade fever, aches or soreness and swelling at the site of the injection. These symptoms are generally very mild, and go away quickly - unlike severe cases of the flu.

When Should I Get the Flu Vaccine?

Flu shots are already becoming available in pharmacies throughout the country, although they are usually more widely available come October. That said, the sooner you can get your flu shot, the better. A vaccine does not take effect until about two weeks after receiving it - so scheduling an appointment in September or early October will protect you for more of this year’s flu season. But if you aren’t able to get your flu shot before October, have no fear: vaccinations are still made available throughout the flu season!

Where Can I Get a Flu Vaccine?

Many local pharmacies host flu shot clinics throughout the year. You can also contact your own Genesis Medical physician to find out when you could visit our offices so that your family can receive their flu shot right in their doctor’s office. This would also be a good time to book a general annual physical, if you or a family member are due for one!

Know that if you aren’t able to make it to our offices, flu shots are also typically available at other health clinics, the health department and pharmacies. Your workplace or school may even offer flu vaccinations.

Help keep your community flu-free this fall! By receiving the vaccine you will not only be protecting yourself, but many others as well. The more people that receive the flu vaccine, the less the flu will spread throughout the community. If you have anymore questions regarding influenza or the flu vaccine, feel free contact your doctor at your nearest Genesis office.