We are all too familiar with flu symptoms: fever, chills, cough, body aches, fatigue and so on. Thank goodness we get a reprieve during the summer when our risk of getting the flu lessens.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States flu season typically starts in October and can last as late as May, with the peak between December and February.

“The best plan of action is to prevent getting the flu virus in the first place,” said Connie Werner, clinic supervisor for the St. Joseph Health Department. “Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be the most common during the upcoming season.”

Sarah Knorr, a nurse practitioner with Northwest Health Services, said the flu shot is a little different each year.

“Although it doesn’t protect against all strains of flu, it can reduce or prevent the most common types of flu for the season,” she said. “The shot is good for a year and can be given as early as August. It is best to have the vaccine by the end of September.”

Flu vaccination is a hot-button topic. Many people are afraid they will get the flu from the shot, but that is a myth.

“You cannot get the flu from the injected flu vaccine,” Knorr said. “It does take about two weeks for it to be effective. People often get the shot during cold and flu season, so they happen to get sick unrelated to the shot.”

Another reason people avoid the vaccine is the fear of needles, but there is an alternative.

“There is a nasal vaccine,” Knorr said, “but it is live, and it’s possible to catch the flu from it. The last several years the nasal was not recommended because it was not effective.”

The CDC recommends everyone over 6 months of age receive an annual flu vaccination, with rare exception.

“Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk for serious flu complications,” Werner said. “This includes people 65 and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, pregnant women and children younger than 5. People with severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine should not receive it.”

The flu vaccine will be available in most doctors’ offices, clinics and pharmacies. If you have questions or concerns regarding the flu vaccine, talk to your medical provider.