Public Health Topics
Flu Watch

UPDATED August 2023

The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year. Most flu activity occurs between October and May, peaking between December and February in the United States. The flu vaccine protects against the flu after two weeks, so it is recommended to get vaccinated early in fall, by the end of October.

Why the flu vaccine is important:

  • It’s the best way to prevent the flu
  • It’s safe and effective
  • It protects you against the harmful effects of flu
  • You can protect others who are too young or unable to get vaccinated

Who should get the flu vaccine:

Beach Cities Health District advises residents to follow flu vaccination guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season with rare exceptions.

Who should not get the flu vaccine:

  • Children younger than 6 months of age
  • People with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine. This might include gelatin, antibiotics or other ingredients. See Special Considerations Regarding Egg Allergy for more information about egg allergies and the flu vaccine.

Anyone can get the flu, even healthy children and adults. High-risk populations include:

  • Children younger than five years old
  • Pregnant women
  • Persons 65 years of age and older
  • People with chronic medical conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heart disease and stroke)

Those in the above high-risk populations should make getting a flu shot a priority as they are at risk for more severe flu infections and negative health outcomes from getting the flu.

The same prevention tips to protect yourself from the flu can also protect you from other respiratory illnesses like the common cold, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV):

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home and away from others if you are sick
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects regularly

Experts are forecasting a “tripledemic” this fall with the flu, COVID-19 and RSV. Vaccines are available for all three viruses. For more information on COVID-19, visit

RSV is another type of respiratory virus that causes mild, cold-like symptoms, but can be serious for older adults and infants leading to hospitalization. There is a vaccine for older adults age 60+; speak with your healthcare provider to see if the RSV vaccine is right for you. In August 2023, the CDC recommended a new RSV vaccine (nirsevimab) for all infants under 8 months born during – or entering – their first RSV season (typically fall through spring). For a small group of children between the ages of 8 and 19 months who are at increased risk of severe RSV disease, such as children who are severely immunocompromised, a dose is recommended in their second season. Read more here. 

Where to get the flu vaccine:

  • Your healthcare provider
  • Your local pharmacy
  • Call 2-1-1 for a location near you
  • Visit a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Clinic

Vaccines are an important public health measure to protect the health of not only yourself, but of your community. While Beach Cities Health District strongly recommends that health care providers, individuals and families follow the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)-recommended vaccination schedules, the Health District recognizes that this is a personal choice for individuals and families. Please do your research, educate yourself and talk with your health care provider to find out which vaccines are recommended for you, or if you have any concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions
Isn’t the flu just a bad cold?

No, the flu can be worse than a bad cold. Most people recover at home from flu after several days, but every year flu sickens millions of people in the United States and causes life-threatening complications that can lead to pneumonia, hospitalization and even death.

What are the common flu signs and symptoms?

Flu signs and symptoms usually begin two days after becoming exposed and infected. People who are sick with the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

How long am I contagious for?

People who have the flu are most contagious 3-4 days after illness begins. Some adults may be infectious one day before symptoms begin and up to seven days after becoming sick.

Does the flu vaccine give you the flu?

No, flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness. Flu vaccines are made with either killed or weakened viruses that cannot cause illness. After getting vaccinated, you may experience a sore arm, body aches or low-grade fever. This is a sign that your body is making antibodies against the flu.

Does the flu vaccine work right away?

No. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against infection. That’s why it’s best to get vaccinated before the flu starts to spread in your community.

Are flu vaccines safe?

Flu vaccines are very safe and have been given to millions of people in the United States for more than 50 years. Like any medicine, vaccines can have minor side effects, but most people who get the flu vaccine have no side effects at all.

I got a flu vaccine last year. Do I need another one?

Yes. The flu virus is always changing and every year the vaccination is updated to include new flu viruses. Even if you were vaccinated last year or have been sick with the flu, the viruses causing the flu this year may be completely different.

I have never had a flu vaccine and I have never been sick with the flu. Why should I get one now?

Many people will get sick with the flu during their life, including healthy people who get serious flu illness. People with the flu who only have mild symptoms can still make other people sick. It’s important to get a flu vaccine to protect yourself from getting the flu, but also to protect the people around you, especially those who are too young or unable to get vaccinated.

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

Yes, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine at the same visit