PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Every flu season is different: the dominant strain, the time of the peak, and the effectiveness of the vaccine varies year to year. Dr. Jason Kole, director of Emergency Department Services at OSF HealthCare, spoke to the OSF Newsroom about what people need to know this year.

When should I get my flu shot?

Dr. Kole recommends that people take September to discuss the flu vaccine with their doctor, and then get the jab in October, before the disease peaks later this fall/early winter.

Some examples of questions you could ask your doctor include:

  • Which vaccines and how many doses are recommended for me?
  • Should I have concerns about side effects or other issues?
  • Are there special circumstances to consider if I’m pregnant?
  • Are there special circumstances for my child? My elderly parent?

Do I need a specific vaccine?

Dr. Kole recommends asking a doctor or health care provider about specifics, especially the recommended dosage. The CDC recommends a higher-dose flu vaccine for people aged 65 and up.

“For the most part, when [the emergency department sees] someone come in with flu, we’re looking at a patient that’s older. We’re concerned about the complications of the flu developing into pneumonia or another serious illness,” Dr. Kole said.

The CDC outlines that if a higher-dose flu vaccine is not available, a senior should get a standard-dose jab, as opposed to no vaccine at all. The agency recommends that seniors get a shot in the arm, not a nasal spray vaccine.

I didn’t get the flu last year. Do I need to get one this year?

Long story short, yes, you should get a flu shot this year.

“Every year, the flu is different,” Dr. Kole said. “The vaccines are designed to attack that particular [year’s] flu strain. So it’s key that you get [the flu vaccine] every year.”

Will I have side effects from receiving the vaccine?

Similarly to the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, side effects of the flu shot vary person to person. After a flu shot, people may experience a headache, muscle aches, nausea or other minor symptoms.

Regardless of whether a person experiences side effects, they should rest assured that the vaccine is working, said Dr. Kole.

Is it safe to get the flu vaccine and a COVID booster at the same time?

Research done by OSF shows that it is safe to get both vaccines at once.

Where can I get a flu shot?

Flu shots are given at most pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens, as well as certain health care facilities. Use the Flu Shot Finder on Vaccines.gov to find the flu shot nearest to you.

Have other questions? Be sure to reach out to your doctor or health care provider for answers.