What to know about this year's flu season.

It's not too late to get a shot. Here's why it's still a good idea.

Here's an important heads-up — or maybe that should be sleeves-up: As long as the flu is going around, it's still a good idea to get a flu shot.

Flu season usually peaks between December and February. And some years it lasts as late as May.

Getting that protection is crucial, even now, since the flu may do more than make you miserable. It might cause serious complications like pneumonia — or even be deadly.

It's too early to know this flu season's toll. But last season, the flu killed more than 80,000 people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And another 900,000 were hospitalized. Those are record-breaking numbers.

Your No. 1 defense.

A yearly flu vaccine is the best way to stay flu-free, according to CDC. Almost everyone 6 months and older needs it. Depending on your age, different types of vaccines may be available to you. Ask your doctor which one is right for you.*

This year the nasal spray is available again. It's approved for those between 2 and 49 years old. But there are exceptions, including pregnant women.

If the flu strikes, then what?

The vaccine is your best protection. Still, it's not 100 percent effective. The good news though: It may save you some misery — making flu symptoms milder if you do get sick.

For people at risk of flu complications, antiviral medicines are advised in the first 48 hours after symptoms start. These medicines may help shorten an illness and protect against serious illness. Those most at risk include:

  • Kids under 5
  • Adults older than 65
  • People with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or asthma
  • People with weak immune systems
  • Pregnant women

If you are sick, take care of yourself — pull up the covers, rest and drink lots of fluids. And to avoid spreading the flu to others, stay at home until you're well.

What to do next

Boost your immunity — and help yourself and others stay well. Find a convenient place to get a flu vaccine now.

Quick tip: If you get your flu shot somewhere other than your regular doctor's office, let them know. That way they can note it in your medical history.

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*Check your benefit plan to see what services may be covered.

Sources: American Lung Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention