When Is It Too Late to Get a Flu Shot?

Whether you're trying to keep yourself healthy, keep young children and old relatives from getting sick, or you just need to do it for work, you might be thinking about getting a flu shot this year. But hey, it's already the middle of February and spring is right around the corner. So, do you really need one? Or is it already too late to get one?

Here's what you need to know.

Going Viral

According to the Food and Drug Administration, it's never too late to get a flu shot. "It's best to get immunized early in the flu season," says the FDA. "The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] says all adults and children older than 6 months should get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Even if you waited until after October, go get your vaccine. It's still beneficial."

While flu activity peaks between December and February, various influenza viruses circulate year-round, and can crop up as late as May. As Lifehacker notes:

Take a look at the Centers for Disease Control's data on flu activity so far this season. There's clearly a lot of flu that hasn't happened yet. In most years, flu activity peaks around February, although every season is a little different. The flu shot takes about two weeks to take effect, so the sooner you get it, the better. That's why it's best to get the shot before flu season starts--you'll be protected by the time it rolls into your neighborhood. (That two-week window also explains why people sometimes feel like the flu shot gave them the flu, or that it didn't protect them: if you came down with the flu in that two-week window, the shot didn't have enough time to take effect.)

Flu Shots and Firings

If your boss is demanding a flu shot, you'll probably need to comply. It is generally legal for employers to institute a mandatory flu shot policy, so getting a flu shot may be a precondition for employment, and, in some cases, employees can be fired for refusing a flu shot.

So if you're thinking of getting a flu shot this year, it's probably a good idea, especially if your job requires it.

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