Published Dec 5, 2023

When is Flu Season?

Dr. Sudip Bose
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Sudip Bose
A young white mother with short red hair sits in bed looking tired as she talks to her young blonde son who is gently hugging her.
Published Dec 5, 2023

Key Points:

  • Flu season typically runs from October to May in the United States.
  • Activity usually peaks between December and February—but every year can differ.
  • You can protect yourself from seasonal influenza by getting your annual vaccine.

Temperatures are dropping, so it’s officially the start of flu season in the United States.

Seasonal influenza (flu) can include symptoms like fever, chills, body aches and tiredness. Most people get mild and unpleasant infections. But some people get really sick—especially older adults and those with weakened immune systems. Throughout the winter of 2022-2023, the CDC estimates that 17,000 to 98,000 people died from the flu.

The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself against the infection. But as that protection starts to fade after a few months, it’s a good idea to watch when the virus is building in your area to make sure you get your vaccine when it will be most effective.

Whether or not you get your vaccine, Dr. B can help you treat an active infection with a $15 online consultation for same-day flu treatment. Read on to learn more about this yearly virus.

When is peak flu season?

It’s possible to catch the flu any time of the year. But the season officially runs from October to May, with peak activity usually occurring from December through February.

This peak is less predictable than it used to be. Cases were very low during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020—likely because of social distancing. Then, in 2021-2022, there were two peaks—one in December and another in late April. Researchers are still studying last year’s season, but early data suggests that the 2022-2023 peak occurred in November—earlier than usual.

There’s no way to know when we should see cases swell this winter. So it’s a good idea to get your vaccine now (if you haven’t already) and stay alert to trends in your local area.

Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?

Vaccine protection can fade after a few months, so getting vaccinated yearly helps your immune system rebuild its defenses. The flu virus is very smart, adapting and changing annually. That’s why the vaccine formula gets regularly updated, and getting that updated dose offers the best protection against current variants.

Which flu viruses are going around in 2023-2024?

Two main types of influenza viruses affect humans—A and B. In most years, flu A causes about 75% of cases. This type also changes the most rapidly.

Vaccines are updated yearly to keep up with how these viruses change. The 2023/2024 vaccine will be quadrivalent, providing protection against two flu A strains and two flu B strains.

These strains include:

  • an A/Victoria/4897/2022 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (in egg-based vaccines) or  A/Wisconsin/67/2022 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (in cell- or recombinant-based vaccines)
  • an A/Darwin/9/2021 (H3N2)-like virus;
  • a B/Austria/1359417/2021 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus
  • a B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B/Yamagata lineage)-like virus

How to protect yourself from the flu

Researchers do their best to predict which strains will circulate in the upcoming year. But sometimes, there are surprises. That’s why it’s also essential to protect yourself by washing your hands and avoiding contact with people who are sick.

To stop the spread of flu activity, be sure to:

  • Get your annual flu vaccine
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue (or elbow) when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick
  • Mask around those with high risk or increased risk of severe illness
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Avoid touching your mouth and eyes
  • Take care of your immune system by getting enough sleep, managing stress and exercising regularly

How do you know if you have the flu?

The flu is just one respiratory infection that circulates in the fall and winter months. Its symptoms can look like symptoms of other infections—including the common cold and Covid-19.

Flu symptoms like fever, chills, fatigue and muscle aches tend to come on quickly and are usually more severe than cold symptoms. Covid-19 can also include severe symptoms and fever. But current variants often include cold-like symptoms like sinus congestion, sore throat or a runny nose.

The only way to know which infection you have is to see your healthcare provider. They can take a sample of the mucus in your nose to determine which respiratory virus is causing a problem. If that test confirms you have the flu and your symptoms started less than two days ago, antiviral drugs like Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) can help you get better faster.

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What flu treatments are available?

Most people recover from the flu in a week or two without any problems. If you develop symptoms, staying home, resting, and drinking plenty of fluids is important. But if your symptoms are severe and include issues like trouble breathing or confusion, get emergency medical help immediately.

Some medications can help you get better faster, including Oseltamivir (Tamiflu). This medication only works when taken within two days of when symptoms started, so don’t wait to get treatment.

There’s no need to venture out when you’re sick. Dr. B can help you get a convenient, online prescription for flu treatments like Oseltamivir right from home. Get started with a short online health questionnaire today.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Flu season.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). 2021-2022 flu season summary.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). 2022-2023 U.S. flu season: Preliminary in-season burden estimates.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Types of Influenza Viruses.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Information for the 2023-2024 Flu Season.

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