Sep 3, 2021, 11:03:20 AM CDT Nov 1, 2023, 11:10:31 AM CDT

What to know for the 2023-2024 flu season

Read about the latest predictions and how to protect your family during this year’s flu season.

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Flu season comes around every fall and lasts through the winter. Each year, new strains of flu circulate in the community. The flu vaccine is tailored to the latest flu strains. That's why every family member over 6-months-old should get the flu vaccine yearly.

We asked Preeti Sharma, M.D., and Tanya Martinez, M.D., pulmonologists at Children's Health℠ and Associate Professors at UT Southwestern, to weigh in with their predictions for this year's flu season and how your family can prepare.

"As COVID-19 continues to circulate as well as other respiratory viruses and the onset of RSV season, it's important to prevent as many contagious illnesses as we can," Dr. Sharma says. "The most effective way to protect against the flu is an annual influenza vaccination."

When does flu season 2023-2024 start?

Although the influenza virus can circulate year-round, cases typically start to appear in October and last until May. Flu season tends to peak between December and March.

What can we expect for this year's flu season?

The flu season can be difficult to predict. However, other countries that experience their flu season ahead of North America can sometimes inform our predictions.

"Data from the Southern Hemisphere showed early infection with the influenza A virus and increased severity of illness," Dr. Sharma says.

The best way to prevent complications from the flu is to get the flu shot in the early fall.

"Especially if you have high-risk family members, it's critical that everyone receive their flu vaccine in September or October each year," Dr. Martinez says.

When will the 2023-2024 flu vaccine be available?

The 2023-2024 flu vaccines are now available. It can take up to two weeks for antibodies to develop after you get the flu vaccine, so you'll want to make sure you and your kids get the vaccine before peak flu season hits.

"If you miss that early window, you and your kids should still get the vaccine. It's better late than never, especially as flu season can sometimes stretch on for months," Dr. Sharma says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine for everyone ages 6 months and older. It's especially critical for your family to get vaccinated if someone in your home has a high risk of life-threatening flu complications.

How effective will this year's flu vaccine be?

Health experts aimed to create the most effective vaccine possible for this year's flu season based on the strains of the flu that are currently circulating in the Southern Hemisphere.

"This same approach was used last year, and it worked quite well," Dr. Sharma says. "Additionally, the current formulations can be given to people with egg allergies without any special precautions, because they have been made without the specific protein that people with egg allergies are allergic to."

The flu shot may not prevent you from getting the flu entirely, but you are less likely to get the flu if you are vaccinated. However, it is still crucial to get the shot because it can significantly reduce the severity of illness and prevent the worst complications.

"Every year, we care for children who require serious medical treatment. A flu shot can prevent this," Dr. Sharma says.

Can you get the flu vaccine at the same time as other vaccines?

Yes, you can get your flu shot at the same time as other vaccines. Ask your health care provider if you have any questions.

How can I keep my family healthy during flu season?

The most important step you can take to stay healthy is to make sure everyone in your family (age 6 months and older) gets the flu shot. Aside from getting the flu vaccine, make sure you also:

  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly

If your child develops flu-like symptoms, get in touch with your family doctor or pediatrician.

"If anyone in your household feels sick, keep track of symptoms and take steps to reduce the spread of any illness," says Dr. Martinez.

Learn more

Children's Health Primary Care offers comprehensive health care for children from birth through young adulthood. Our pediatricians combine quality care with evidence-based practice to meet your child's medical needs. Learn more and find a pediatrician.

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communicable disease, coronavirus, flu, flu season, infectious disease, influenza, virus, vaccine, hygiene, immune system

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