The flu is unpredictable. The season can start in the fall or winter but not peak until the spring. It can be mild or severe so experts agree it is best to be prepared now. What else do you need to know about the flu vaccine? Dr. Charles Bregier, medical director at Novant Health answers common questions.

Why is October the best month to get vaccinated for the flu?

The flu shot vaccination typically lasts six months and you never really know when flu season is going to begin--or more importantly--when it’s going to end. It rarely begins before October or November and can go as late as April. So if you get it too soon--say August or September--and we get a late flu season, the immunity might have worn off before flu season is over.   

Can the flu shot make you sick?

Some people may think that the flu shot made them really sick, but it really didn’t. The flu shot is made from an inactivated or dead virus and cannot cause illness. But what happened to those people is that they were out and about and there’s always cough, cold and all kinds of infections everywhere and they touched something and they happened to get sick a few days after the flu shot. They think it was caused by the flu shot but it really wasn’t.  

How does the flu vaccine help people with chronic conditions like heart disease or COPD?

These conditions leave their immune systems not quite as strong, so their bodies can’t fight the flu quite as well. These people are at high risk of developing complications, like pneumonia, so they really want to get the flu shot to reduce that risk.  

If I am pregnant should I get a flu shot? Will it hurt my baby?

Pregnant women should absolutely get a flu shot. Pregnant women actually share similarities to people with chronic diseases. While pregnancy isn’t a disease, it places a special stress on the heart, the lungs, the circulatory system and the immune system.

Pregnant women, if they get the flu, are much more likely to be hospitalized and get much sicker with the flu. They should get it for themselves first and foremost. In addition their newborn cannot get a flu shot until they are six months old and babies are very susceptible if they get the flu. If their mother had a flu shot, her antibodies were passed to the baby and the baby has protection.  

Why do young children need two flu shots?

In young children it takes a little bit longer to stimulate the immune response to the flu shot. They get the first one to get their body thinking about an immune response and the second one administered a month later gives a stronger immune response and better protection.   

If you need to get a flu vaccine for yourself or someone in your family, click here  to find a provider that can help you.