How Long is Cold and Flu Season in The United States?
The cold and flu season in the United States lasts about 4 months, with the major months being November through January. However, each state is currently in its timeline, so each season differs.
The table below organizes the months of cold and flu season for a state in each of the five US regions based on 2021 and 2022 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cold and Flu Season and Peak Months in Each US Region
|US State + Region||Cold and Flu Season by Month||Month with Peak Cases|
|New York (Northeast)|
November 2021 - mid-January 2022
mid-March - June 2022
early October 2022 (right now)
|end of December|
November 2021 - mid-January 2022
mid-May - July 2022
early October 2022 (right now)
end of May and early June
November 2021 - late January 2022
late August 2022 - right now
|Minnesota (Midwest)||October 2021 - January 2022||November and December|
|California (West)||December 2021 - January 2022||early January|
What Are the Symptoms of the Flu?
The influenza virus causes mild to severe illness and can sometimes lead to death. Although not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, the main symptoms of the flu to look out for are:
- fever and chills
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle or body aches
- vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
Recovery time for the flu is between a few days to two weeks. However, complications as a result of the flu can occur. These complications can be as moderate as an ear infection or as severe as pneumonia. The flu can also worsen preexisting chronic health conditions, such as asthma.
Although everyone can get the flu, some people are at a higher risk for developing complications. Some of these include:
- Ages 65 and above
- People with chronic medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, heart disease
- Pregnant women
- Children under 5 years
What Makes a Cold Different From the Flu?
The common cold can be caused by multiple viruses, while the flu is caused by the influenza virus and is more severe, with more intense symptoms. The common cold has a gradual onset of symptoms, while the flu is more abrupt and can result in complications. Further, fevers, body aches, chills, and headaches are rare symptoms of the common cold but are fairly common for the flu.
What is The Difference Between the Flu and COVID-19?
The flu and COVID-19 are both caused by different viruses. COVID-19 spreads more quickly and causes more severe illness in some people than the flu. COVID-19 also shows symptoms after being infected, and people are contagious for a longer time.
Since the flu and COVID-19 show the same symptoms, testing is needed to determine your virus.
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Cold, Flu, and COVID-19 Prevention
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been recommended or enforced to wear masks and social distancing. In 2021, this helped minimize the spread of COVID-19 and the cold and flu, so overall flu rates were lower.
This year, it is important to do the same if you are not feeling well and to take prevention measures. Some healthy habits to pick up, especially during this cold and flu season, are:
- Avoid close contact with those who are sick, and stay home if you feel sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your face, as this helps prevent the spread of germs.
Do I Need to Get a Flu Shot This Year?
The CDC recommends a flu shot for everyone ages 6 months and above. In 2021, the flu did not hit as much as it has in the past because of the precautions being taken against COVID-19 (mask-wearing, staying home, etc.), preventing the flu's spread.
This year, it is anticipated that both the flu and COVID-19 will be problematic during the winter months; thus, it is important to get your flu shot. This will help prevent you from getting the flu and experiencing any complications resulting from the virus. Further, getting a flu shot is important to protect yourself and help relieve the burden of illness on the healthcare system, which has been burdened especially due to COVID-19.
September and October are the CDC-recommended times to get vaccinated no matter where you live, but it is also good to get the vaccine even during the peak of the season, as it can still provide protection.
How Much Does a Flu Shot Cost Without Insurance?
Without insurance, the cost of a flu shot can range between $20 and $70. The cost may depend on the type of flu shot that you get. The CDC recommends that people over 65 get specific vaccines, including the Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine, Flublok Quadrivalent recombinant flu vaccine, and Fluad Quadrivalent adjuvanted flu vaccine.
Cold and Flu Season Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Below are some frequently asked questions regarding the cold and flu season.
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How Can I Manage My Cold or Flu at Home?
Since viruses cause colds and flu, they cannot be cured by antibiotics. However, there are steps that you can take to manage your symptoms. Get 8-10 hours of sleep and avoid extreme exercise to strengthen your immune system. Stay hydrated, along with keep your rooms moisturized with a humidifier. Gargling with salt water and over-the-counter medications can help you with a sore throat.
What Are the Side Effects of The Flu Shot?
The major side effects of the flu shot include soreness on the arm of the flu shot site, headaches, minor fever, and nausea. If you experience severe symptoms such as weakness or difficulty breathing, you may be experiencing an allergic reaction, which you should call emergency services.
Can I Get a Covid Shot and Flu Shot at the Same Time?
It is safe to get both a COVID-19 or booster shot and a flu shot simultaneously.
The cold and flu season in the United States lasts about four months, from November through January. There are exceptions based on your region, which is a factor in determining the season’s length and peak month of cases. It is important to get your flu shot to best prevent catching the influenza virus, especially because the flu can lead to complications.
This season it is especially important to monitor flu-like symptoms. Mira offers flu shots at select CVS locations and you just pay the price of the vaccine. If you are feeling ill and want to seek care quickly, become a Mira member for just $45 per month and visit an urgent care center near you.
Michelle Fleming is a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin majoring in Public Health, focusing on biostatistics and informatics and minoring in Health Communications. Michelle is passionate about bridging the gap in health inequalities through advocacy and policy, especially within minority groups.