Flu (Influenza)

What is the Flu?

Flu is a respiratory illness spread by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Flu can make people a little sick or very sick. Sometimes, the flu can lead to death. The best way to not get the flu is by getting your flu vaccine each year.

How is the Flu different from COVID-19?

Flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses that spread among people. But flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses. Flu is caused by influenza viruses, but COVID-19 is caused by a new virus (called SARS-CoV-2). Flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms so it may be hard to tell the difference. Your doctor will test whether you have flu or COVID-19.

Can I get the Flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes. It is possible to have flu and COVID-19 at the same time. It is also possible to have other respiratory illnesses at the same time as COVID-19.

Can I get the Flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time?

Yes! The side effects are believed to be generally similar if the Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are administered at the same time or separately. 

Flu Symptoms

Flu can make you a little sick or very sick. Flu sometimes leads to death. Flu is NOT the same as a cold. Flu usually comes on quickly. With the flu, people often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • fever–or feeling feverish/chills (But, not everyone with flu will have a fever.)
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or body aches
  • headaches
  • fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • vomiting and diarrhea for some people (usually more common in children).

How Flu Spreads

  • Flu viruses mainly spread when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are close by.
  • Less often, a person might get the flu by touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.

People at risk of severe illness from flu

  • Adults age 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People with asthma
  • People with heart disease or a history of stroke
  • People with diabetes
  • People living with HIV
  • People with cancer
  • People with chronic kidney disease 

When should I get a flu vaccine this year?

The CDC recommends getting the flu vaccine as early as possible, in September or October. However, as flu viruses continue to spread, you can get the vaccine throughout the flu season, even in January or later. 

Getting a flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic

If COVID-19 is spreading in my community, should I still go out to get a flu vaccine?

Yes. Getting a flu vaccine is essential to protect your health and your family’s health this season. When getting a flu vaccine, follow CDC guidelines for running essential errands and doctor visits. Continue to wear your mask, keep at least six feet away from others, and wash your hands.

If I want to get a flu vaccine, where is the safest place for me to get a flu vaccine?

You can safely get a flu vaccine at many places including pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and health departments. 

Vaccine Safety

Flu vaccines are very safe. Like any medicine, vaccines can have side effects. Most people have no side effects from the flu vaccine. The most common side effects are usually mild and go away on their own.

Common Minor Side Effects of a Flu Vaccine:

  • Sore or itching arm from the shot
  • Hoarseness or cough
  • Sore, red, or itchy eyes
  • Fever, aches, headache, or fatigue

Young children who get inactivated flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine at the same time may have a higher risk of having seizures caused by fever. Tell your doctor if your child has ever had a seizure.

Severe allergic reactions from a vaccine are very rare, estimated at less than 1 in a million doses. Such reactions usually happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination

More information can be found on our Flu Vaccines Frequently Asked Questions page

Additional Information About the Flu and Flu Vaccines

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention: Influenza

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Influenza Frequently Asked Questions