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The Ultimate Guide to Flu Season

By Nomi Health on January 11, 2023

Child at the doctor's office with her mom

It’s dark and cold, and everyone seems to be sick. This season’s “Tripledemic” is one of the worst illness seasons in recent memory and it feels like no one can escape. Between the flu, RSV, and COVID, there’s germs lurking everywhere. According to the New York Times, the current season of respiratory sickness in the United States already rivals some of the worst cold and flu seasons on record – and it started two months early.  

Read on to learn how long the flu is contagious, when to get a flu shot, what to avoid after flu shots, when the Spanish flu vaccine was created, how to test for the flu, and how effective the flu shot is. 

Stay healthy, safe, and far from the flu with this ultimate guide. 

What Is Flu Season? 

You’ve been told to be careful about flu season. But do you know what and when flu season is? 

Flu (influenza) is an illness that affects the respiratory system and is highly contagious. Flu season happens during the fall and winter months in the U.S., and flu cases increase in October, peak in December and February, and can last ‘til May. Naturally, flu season aligns with the holiday season when many people spend time together indoors. 

Flu can cause mild to severe effects. Typical flu symptoms often include the following: 

  • Fever 

  • Sore throat 

  • Runny nose 

  • Aches 

  • Fatigue 

When to Get a Flu Shot 

You’ll want to get your flu shot before flu season arrives. Your best bet is to get your flu shot in September or October. But, if you miss that window, getting a flu shot in the later winter months is still helpful. Most of the time, you can easily get your flu shot at your local grocery store or another convenient location such as Nomi Health. You can search for the nearest place offering flu shots as well.

Elderly woman getting a flu shot

What to Avoid After Flu Shots 

After your flu shot, you can go about your regular life, but we recommend avoiding stress and excessive activity if possible. We say this because you may experience side effects that slow you down a little, including headaches, soreness, fever, nausea, and fatigue. If you do experience these symptoms, you may want to rest. If you experience a more severe reaction, you may want to contact your medical provider. Based on how you feel, you can choose whether or not to exercise. Staying well hydrated is always a good idea too.   

How Long Is the Flu Contagious? 

If you get the flu, you’ll want to be careful about not spreading the illness. You might be contagious one day before showing symptoms, and you will be most contagious during the first three to four days of being sick. Note that you may still be contagious up to a week after showing symptoms. 

When Was the Spanish Flu Vaccine Created? 

Spanish influenza, also known as the 1918 pandemic or the H1N1 virus, began in 1918 and continued until 1920. It affected 500 million people and killed 50 million people. Many scientists raced to create a vaccine, but it wasn’t until 1945 that a vaccine was approved. Thomas Francis and Jonas Salk, from the University of Michigan, developed this vaccine. 

Later, researchers began to notice how the vaccine needed to be updated over time to counter the evolving influenza. The World Health Organization (WHO) created the Worldwide Influenza Centre in 1948 to research influenza variants over time in an effort to prevent future flu pandemics.  

Researchers and scientists continue to monitor flu strains to ensure flu vaccines are effective and powerful. Each year, we administer a new vaccine to combat the new strain of influenza.  

Is There a Test for the Flu? 

The flu can look a lot like other respiratory illnesses. If you want to be tested for the flu and know whether you have the flu or not, you can choose from several testing options. 

How do you get tested for the flu? Here are some of your options, which may vary depending on your location: 

  • Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests (RIDTs): Give results in 10-15 minutes but have lower accuracy compared to other tests 

  • Rapid Molecular Assays: Give results in 15-20 minutes and have higher accuracy than RIDTs 

  • Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) and Viral Culture: Give results within several hours, but must be performed by a medical professional with a swab 

Your doctor may also diagnose you with the flu without a test. It’s also possible to get COVID-19 at the same time as the flu.  

How Effective Is the Flu Shot? 

The flu shot has powerful, potentially life-saving effects. It doesn’t completely eliminate your chances of getting the flu, but it does decrease your chances of getting the flu. It also mitigates the effects of the flu if you do get it. Each vaccine protects against several strains of flu, and each year the CDC studies the efficacy of the new vaccine. 

During 2019-2020, flu vaccines prevented 7.5 million people from getting the flu. Flu vaccines can reduce the risk of getting the flu by 40 or 60% depending on the year and the vaccine. People who get the flu shot and still get the flu and need to be hospitalized have a 26% lower risk of needing to go to an intensive care unit and a 31% lower risk of death from the flu. 

Vaccines have been shown to lower the risk of life-threatening influenza in children by 75% and to reduce flu-related hospitalization for children by 41%. The flu vaccine also benefits older adults, pregnant people (before and after birth), and people who suffer from some chronic health conditions

While no vaccine is perfect and the flu shot cannot guarantee health, it can significantly increase your body’s ability to stay healthy and safe throughout the dangers of flu season.  

Stay Healthy Through Flu Season with Nomi Health  

Whether you’re merely approaching flu season or in the middle of it, our team at Nomi Health is ready to help keep you healthy. You can work to protect yourself and others by getting a flu shot at a participating clinic such as Nomi Health this flu season.