Ah, flu season. If there’s one thing you can depend on every year, it’s the flu coming back into collective consciousness and wreaking havoc on communities across the country.
The CDC estimates that between 9 million and 41 million people catch the flu (or, the influenza virus) each year, and most of these cases occur during what is known as “flu season.”
In this article, we’ll talk about what flu season is and when it starts, as well as the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones amid the spread—including when it’s necessary to see a doctor if you do come down with it.
Being educated is one of the best steps towards staying safe and healthy, so read on to learn all you need to know before the flu comes after you.
What is Flu Season?
While the influenza virus is active year round, flu season is the period of time when the influenza virus is at its most active, meaning cases are up and you are more likely to become infected.
Typically, this season begins in the fall (generally October), when it starts getting colder, and ends in the spring (generally April or May), when it starts getting warmer.
When Does Flu Season Start?
There’s no fixed date that marks the start of flu season; the exact timing changes every year and varies between areas of the country.
That said, October tends to be the month when cases start ramping up again every year, and December to March is when cases are at their peak.
According to data collected by the CDC, for the past several decades, February has been the month when the most cases are reported, followed by December, March, and then January.
In addition to the influenza virus, there are several other respiratory viruses that can spread during flu season and are often confused with the flu.
These include rhinovirus, which is one of the viruses that causes the common cold, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which can be severe—and even deadly—in young children and older adults.
Best Ways To Protect Yourself From the Flu
Though the flu is contagious, there are several easy and effective ways to protect yourself from being infected by the flu this season.
Just like with COVID-19, masks can be extremely effective when it comes to preventing getting infected with the influenza virus.
Again, like with COVID-19, experts believe that the influenza virus is most often transferred to others through tiny droplets when an infected person speaks, coughs, or sneezes.
A well-fitting face mask can prevent these tiny droplets from getting near your nose and/or mouth and infecting you.
Proper hygiene is so important when it comes to keeping the influenza virus at bay, and washing your hands is one of the best ways to keep everything clean and under control.
Thoroughly (and frequently) washing your hands with soap and water is important; if you are out and about and don’t currently have access to soap, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizing solution is the next best thing, according to the CDC.
It can greatly reduce your likelihood of being hospitalized for, or dying from, the flu.
The flu shot is recommended for everyone six months and older (with a few exceptions) and is especially important for those who are at a higher risk of developing serious flu complications.
As far as timing, it also recommended that you get it before the end of October—but if it’s after that time and you still haven’t gotten the vaccine, it’s not too late.
When To See a Doctor
Most people who get the flu can recover on their own with rest, hydration, and proper self-care—but there are certain people who should seek out help from a medical professional to ensure that complications don’t turn deadly.
According to the CDC, people at a greater risk of developing complications from the flu include adults 65 and older, adults with chronic illnesses, pregnant people, young children, people with disabilities, and more.
If you are in one of these groups, or think you have come down with a severe case of the flu, be sure to check in with your doctor, who may prescribe you an antiviral medication to help with the severity and/or duration of your symptoms.
Without proper care, the flu can lead to more serious conditions, like pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus infections, which can lead to hospitalization and even death. The flu can also worsen chronic health conditions, like asthma and congestive heart failure.
How K Health Can Help
If you want to talk to a doctor about getting the flu shot, think you or a loved one have come down with the flu, or want more information on how to best treat symptoms, K Health and their trusted team of medical professionals are here to help.
Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?
Download K Health to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and, if needed, text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Preventive Steps. (n.d.) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/prevention.htm?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fflu%2Fconsumer%2Fprevention.htm
Preventing the Spread of the Flu. (n.d.) https://onlinenursing.duq.edu/when-flu-season/
Flu Season. (n.d.) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm
What are the benefits of flu vaccination? (n.d.) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm
People at Higher Risk of Flu Complications. (n.d.) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/index.htm
2021-22 Flu Season. (2021) https://vaccinateyourfamily.org/vaccines-diseases/current-flu-season/
Where does the flu come from every year? (2016) https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/biological-sciences-articles/where-does-the-flu-come-from-every-year
Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines. (n.d.) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/misconceptions.htm
Flu & Young Children. (n.d.) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/children.htm
Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine [LAIV] (The Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine). (n.d.) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/nasalspray.htm
Flu symptoms: Should I see my doctor? (2021) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/expert-answers/flu-symptoms/faq-20057983
Frequently Asked Questions about Estimated Flu Burden. (n.d.) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/faq.htm