You can't believe everything you hear about the flu and flu shot. There are a lot of myths out there, from how effective the flu vaccine is to how serious the flu virus can be. Get to know these key flu facts, so you can avoid the flu and stay healthy.
Flu illnesses are most common during the fall and winter. Flu season typically starts in October and peaks December through February.
The flu virus spreads mainly through tiny droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouth or nose of other people nearby. And even more shocking, these droplets can travel up to 6 feet. Plus, the virus can survive on surfaces, such as doorknobs and tables, for up to 24 hours. And it can live on hard surfaces, like stainless steel and plastic, for up to 48 hours. So, don’t forget to wash your hands!
For most people, the flu lasts 3 to 7 days. But cough, fatigue, and weakness can last for more than 2 weeks.
People are typically contagious for about a week. It’s possible to give others the flu one day before you show symptoms. That’s because flu symptoms usually start about 2 days after the flu virus enters your body. In general, you can spread the virus up to 7 days after you start feeling sick.
It’s best to get vaccinated early in the fall, ideally by the end of October before flu season begins. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial.
To get a flu shot outside Kaiser Permanente, you can visit one of the select retailers below between now and March 31, 2021. You'll need your photo ID and member ID.
This new program is designed to make flu shots more convenient, at no out-of-pocket charge. If you are asked to pay at the time of your vaccination, you can submit a claim for expedited reimbursement.
You will need to let the flu shot provider know that you are a Kaiser Permanente member, and will need to show a photo ID and your Member ID (just knowing your number will not be enough). You can show either your physical Member ID card or your digital Member ID card, if you have that option available to you.
Please visit the website for the retail pharmacy you are interested in for details such as hours of operation, appointments, age restrictions, and more.
The flu shot helps your body make antibodies to fight the flu virus. It takes 2 weeks for a flu shot to start working and help protect you from the flu.
Flu viruses change each year. New flu vaccines are created every year to fight the latest virus. Plus, the immunity you get from a flu shot only lasts about a year.
Any side effects are generally mild and go away within a few days. Common side effects include soreness or redness at the injection site, headache, fever, nausea, and muscle aches.
Recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that, on average, the flu vaccine can reduce the risk of flu by 40% to 60%.1 Effectiveness can vary based on how well the vaccine matches the strain of the virus each year. But even if you get the flu, the vaccine can still help make your symptoms less severe.
No. The flu shot can’t give you the flu. The vaccine doesn’t contain a live virus, so it can’t make you sick.
Yes. The flu vaccine is safe for children 6 months and older, and can even be life-saving. The flu can be very dangerous. Children 5 years and younger sometimes need medical care because of the flu.
Yes. It’s possible to get the flu even if you got a flu shot. This may happen because:
FluZone High-Dose is an influenza (flu) vaccine specifically for people 65 years and older. It contains a higher dose of an important ingredient, called an antigen, which is the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to make antibodies. FluZone High-Dose vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen contained in regular flu vaccines. Whenever FluZone High-Dose is available, we will automatically offer it to our members age 65 and older, but if it is not available, we will instead offer and encourage members to receive other flu vaccine products that the CDC considers equivalent.
It is important to note that all flu vaccines are effective in protecting against influenza and its complications, and when the high-dose version is in short supply, we will offer other versions. We are encouraging all of our members older than 6 months to get their flu vaccination as soon as possible. Protection against the flu is especially important during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Supply of FluZone High-Dose vaccines is limited everywhere; this isn’t an issue that only Kaiser Permanente is experiencing. All flu shots offered at Kaiser Permanente will protect you against influenza, so we recommend getting whatever flu shot is available at a Kaiser Permanente facility rather than looking elsewhere.
The FluZone High-Dose vaccine is a flu vaccine product designed for people age 65 and older that contains higher amounts of influenza antigen. We offer this vaccine when its available, however, the CDC is not recommending the FluZone High-Dose vaccine over the standard vaccine for people age 65 and older. All vaccines provided by Kaiser Permanente are safe and effective against the flu and its complications.
The flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses, but they’re caused by different viruses. The flu is caused by influenza viruses, whereas COVID-19 is caused by a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Some flu and COVID-19 symptoms are similar, so it can be hard to tell the difference between the two without getting a test to confirm. Information on COVID-19 is still evolving as we learn more about the virus. For the latest information, visit cdc.gov.
Yes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it’s possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. While details are continuing to emerge on how common this is — you can at least protect yourself from the flu by getting the flu shot. This is one of the many reasons why the CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine.
No. The flu shot doesn’t protect against COVID-19. However, the flu vaccine can help reduce your risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death. If less people get the flu, care teams can focus their time and resources on providing COVID-19 patients with the care they need.
No. If you tested positive for COVID-19, or believe you might have it, it’s best to wait before getting a flu shot. This will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to anyone in the flu shot location — including other patients and health care teams.
For most people, the flu is mild and goes away on its own. But some people can have a harder time fighting the flu. Their symptoms tend to be more severe or they can develop serious health complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, or respiratory failure. This is usually because they have weaker immune systems.
The Consulting Nurse Service is available around the clock to Kaiser Permanente members who have medical questions or concerns.