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Patient getting a flu shot at his local hospital.

What's the best time to get a flu shot?

Pharmacies started promoting flu shots in late summer, but when should you get yours to ensure the best possible protection?

If you haven’t received one yet, October and November are great times to get vaccinated, says Brett Prylinski, D.O., a family medicine physician at Piedmont. That’s because the flu season will probably become more severe in the coming months.

“The peak season is in the wintertime,” he says. “You want your immune system to be ready.”

But if you don’t get a shot this fall, there’s still no excuse to avoid getting one. Flu season can extend into early spring, and protecting yourself will protect others too.

Why is fall the ideal time for a flu shot?

Although flu season doesn’t pick up until winter, the flu shot needs time to work, Dr. Prylinski says.

It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective because your body needs to produce the necessary antibodies, he explains.

“While that’s happening, you’re not considered to be adequately protected,” he adds.

Dr. Prylinski likens antibodies to Wanted posters: They can alert your immune system to threats, allowing you to effectively fight off a flu virus.

Do you need a second flu shot?

You only need one flu shot per season, Dr. Prylinski says. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that even people with compromised immune systems, like older adults, are protected by a single shot.

However, you do need a new vaccination each flu season because viruses circulating can change each year.

“The viruses mutate quickly,” Dr. Prylinski explains. Each flu season, the vaccine is tweaked to protect people against new strains.

Is the flu shot really worth it?

The flu shot is a hugely important vaccine that saves lives. Even if you don’t get your shot until late in the season, it’s still worthwhile to have.

“The flu is an immediate threat,” Dr. Prylinski says.

No flu vaccine offers 100 percent protection from sickness, but if you do get the flu, your illness may be less severe if you’ve had a shot, he says.

What’s more, getting your flu shot helps protect people with compromised immune systems and people who can’t receive the shot themselves. You’re keeping other people healthy as well as yourself.

After you’ve had your shot, you can even take steps to make it more effective. By taking care of your body, Dr. Prylinski says, you’ll boost your immune system and help it fight illness.

Here are some easy ways to take care of yourself:

  • Get enough sleep at night.
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Manage your stress levels.
  • Exercise regularly – daily walks are a simple way to squeeze in more physical activity.

Want to know more about the flu shot and its effectiveness? Dr. Prylinski recommends talking to your doctor.

“If you have questions about the flu shot, make an appointment,” he says.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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