Seasonal Flu Prevention
Plan to get a flu vaccine this fall
Getting the flu shot is as important as ever this year, and it remains the most effective way to prevent influenza.
About the 2023-2024 flu season
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone get vaccinated against the flu by the end of October. However, even if you receive your vaccination after October, it will still be helpful towards preventing severe illness. If you have questions about the 2023-2024 flu season, please visit the CDC website or ask your UW Medicine care team.
Information about the flu vaccine
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year, with rare exceptions.
Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk of developing serious flu complications.
Children 6 months to 8 years old may need one or two doses, so check with your pediatrician.
It’s a good idea to get vaccinated by the end of October. In the U.S., the flu season peaks between late November and March, and it takes your body up to two weeks to form the antibodies that protect you.
Children should be vaccinated every flu season for the best protection against flu. Some children 6 months to 8 years old may need one or two doses, so check with your pediatrician.
For those children, they should get their first dose as soon as the vaccine becomes available. This will allow the second dose (which must be given at least four weeks later) to be received by the end of October.
Yes, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine at the same time if you are eligible and the timing works. Studies conducted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic indicate that it is safe to get both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine at the same visit.
Even though both vaccines can be given at the same visit, people should follow the recommended schedule for either vaccine. Ask your healthcare provider if you have questions.
While vaccine effectiveness can vary from year to year, recent studies from the CDC report that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine.
Because we do not know if this year’s flu vaccine will be effective until toward the end of the flu season, the best thing you can do to protect yourself and the community is to get a flu shot.
Yes. Your safety is our top priority at every UW Medicine hospital and clinic. We have made getting your flu shot safer with mask requirements, physical distancing, mandatory staff screening and more.
Yes. The flu is dangerous for many people, especially those older than age 65, young children and people with existing medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Pregnant people are also at high risk for flu complications. However, it is important to note that the flu can make anyone sick enough to end up in the hospital, and every flu season leads to flu-related deaths across all age groups.
Even with preventive measures like wearing a facial covering and physical distancing, the spread of the flu is still possible in our community. Getting vaccinated will limit the spread of the flu, which will reduce hospitalizations and deaths.
The single best way to prevent getting the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Good health habits like avoiding people who are sick, covering your cough/sneeze and washing your hands can also help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like flu.
Getting immunized for flu might prevent you from trying to fight both respiratory viruses at the same time, and if you do become ill, your doctor can better help you.
Because the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 can be so similar, people who have the flu will likely need to be tested for both infections. While we don’t always need to test for flu in healthy adults who are managing their symptoms at home, it is still important to test everyone with symptoms for COVID-19.
Flu and COVID-19 symptoms
Based on everything we’ve learned so far, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between influenza and COVID-19 based only on symptoms.
Symptoms for COVID-19 and flu can range from mild to severe. Symptoms shared by COVID-19 and the flu are:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
Unlike the flu, symptoms of COVID-19 may include loss of taste or smell. Getting tested for the flu and COVID-19 is the best way to confirm a diagnosis.
Yes, it is possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. We do not know how often this occurs or how the two viruses interact but being infected with both viruses at the same time would likely be more dangerous than just one.
If you have symptoms that resemble those of the flu or COVID-19, you should get tested as soon as possible. At UW Medicine you can also: