What You Need to Know About Flu This Season - 2021

Howard Feldfogel, DO, Director of the Department of Medicine at Montefiore Nyack Hospital

It’s not too early to get your flu shot this season. Howard Feldfogel, DO, Director of the Department of Medicine at Montefiore Nyack Hospital, says there is some evidence this might be a worse flu season than last year, so getting a flu shot is especially important.

“We’re not entirely sure why last flu season was milder, but it could be due to masking, social distancing and increased handwashing because of COVID-19,” he said. “We do know that the best way to protect yourself is to get a flu shot every year.”

Dr. Feldfogel answers questions about how to keep yourself and your family healthy this flu season:

Q: Who should get a flu shot?
A: Everyone over the age of six months.

Q: What about if you have health problems like diabetes or high blood pressure?
A: If you have a chronic health problem like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it’s especially important to get a flu shot every year. These medical conditions put you at higher risk for flu-related complications, such as pneumonia.

Q: When is the best time to get a flu shot?
A: Flu cases generally peak between December and February, but it starts circulating before that. And it takes about two weeks from the time you get your shot to have full protection. So it’s not too early now to get your shot.

Q: Can you get a flu shot and COVID shot at the same time?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it’s safe to take the flu shot and COVID shot at the same time. If you do, get them in different arms, so in case you have a local reaction such as redness you know which shot caused it.

Q: Why do we need to get a flu vaccination every single year?
A: Because a person’s immune protection from the vaccine declines over time, you need a flu shot every year for the best protection. Also, flu viruses are constantly changing, so the vaccine is updated every year to protect against the viruses that scientists think will be the most common during the upcoming flu season.

Q: Why is it important to wash your hands often during flu season?
A: Hand washing prevents you from transferring germs—including the flu virus—from your hands to your eyes, nose and mouth. If someone coughs into their hand and then touches a surface, and you walk by and touch the same surface and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, it can transfer the virus to you. Hand sanitizing with an alcohol-based sanitizer is equally as useful in preventing any germs from getting into your eyes, nose or mouth.

Q: Does mask wearing help protect against the flu?
A: Wearing a mask helps stops the spread of germs transmitted through coughing. So if you’re sick, the mask stops your germs from spreading to anyone near you. And if anyone else coughs, your mask helps to prevent you from breathing in their germs.