The virus can be super dangerous, especially for young and elderly folks. "People can be out of work for a week or two and they can get pneumonia or other serious illnesses, like ear infections and bronchitis," says , director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minnesota.

Yet, much of the time, people end up with the flu because they didn't get the vaccination, or because they waited too long and caught it before they were properly protected. This year, avoid making that rookie mistake by knowing *exactly* when to get your vaccine. This way, you'll help keep yourselfand those around yousafe from a miserable illness and potentially serious infection.

Let's get right to it: When is the best time to get the flu shot?

The best time to get your flu vaccination is as soon as its available, Dr. Poland says. And it's available a lot sooner than you might think. Sometimes, you can get the vaccine starting at the very end of August, but more often it drops in pharmacies and doctors offices in mid-September or early-October.

While it may seem alarmist to schedule your flu shot (or the nasal spray) ASAP, it really can save you from a dreadful few weeks or even a serious illness that sends you to the hospital. Ive seen far too many disasters in people who think they can time it, Dr. Poland says. "People either forget about getting the vaccine or procrastinate it. Then they start seeing their neighbors and coworkers get sick and decide it's time. But at that point, it could already be too late."

How does the flu shot work exactly?

The influenza vaccine takes two weeks to incubate and build virus-fighting antibodies in your body, says , an internal medicine doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and medical advisor to Womens Health. That means youre not protected from the virus for a full 14 days after you get the shot. So your flu-infected neighbors could already have passed the flu on and your vaccine wont do a thing to stop you from getting sick.

Still, that doesn't mean you should skip the vaccine altogether if you feel like you're getting it late in the season. It could still protect you, and will likely last up to six months.

Some people think if they dont get it by Thanksgiving, its too late, says Dr. Poland. But thats far from the truth. Dr. Peterson is still administering flu shots in her office well into March. And as long as your pharmacy or doctors supply hasnt run out, you can still get a flu shot until May.

Really, it's never too early or too late to get your vaccination, but getting the shot as early as you can means you'll be protected for more of the season. The majority of flu outbreaks in the U.S. happen between February and March, Dr. Poland says, so getting a vaccine after the holidays isn't pointless by any means.

Who should get the flu shot?

Everyone older than six months should be getting their flu shotthat includes pregnant women. "Especially pregnant women," Dr. Poland says. "The influenza vaccine will help to protect their developing baby."

Can I get the flu once I've gotten the vaccine?

Even if you do get the vaccine, it isn't 100 percent effective, and theres no guarantee itll keep you from getting the flu. Thats because the virus is extraordinarily promiscuous, according to Dr. Poland. LOL. Its constantly mutating and changing, meaning that the vaccine you get could be protecting you from four different strains of the flu but if you run across a fifth strain, you could still get sick.

For example, In 2000, we had exactly the right combination of flu strains in the vaccine, Dr. Poland says. "Then, out of nowhere, in November, there was a new strain, and people had no protection.

Still, some protection is better than none at all. With so many different types of influenza virus out there, its best to be protected against as many as possible.

When is flu season in 2019?

This year, you can expect flu season to hit around the same time as it does most other years, The flu is unpredictable, but it typically thrives in the colder months. When the thermometer drops, that's when you can expect flu season to start Dr. Peterson says.

So, *now* is the perfect time to put a reminder on your calendar to stop at your pharmacy and get the flu shot, for the sake of your own health and the health of everyone around you.